WASHINGTON – The White House on Thursday released a list of President Joe Biden’s latest nominee picks to fill open seats on the federal courts. Included in the president’s choices are two currently serving LGBTQ women judges.
One is currently serving as Vermont’s first openly LGBTQ Supreme Court justice, who would also be the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve on any federal circuit court. The other who would be the first openly LGBTQ federal judge in Colorado and the first openly LGBTQ woman to serve as a federal district court judge in any state west of the Mississippi.
This is President Biden’s sixth round of names for federal judicial positions, bringing the number of announced federal judicial nominees to 35.
Justice Beth Robinson: Nominee for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit
Justice Beth Robinson has served as an Associate Justice on the Vermont Supreme Court since 2011. Prior to her appointment, Justice Robinson served as counsel to Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin from 2010 to 2011. From 1993 to 2010, Justice Robinson was a civil litigator in private practice at Langrock Sperry & Wool where she focused on civil litigation including employment law, workers’ compensation, contract disputes, and family law. She also represented LGBTQ+ individuals in civil and civil rights cases, including leading the freedom to marry movement in Vermont. From 1990 to 1991, Justice Robinson was an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in Washington, D.C., focusing on white-collar criminal defense. Justice Robinson served as a law clerk for Judge David B. Sentelle on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia from 1989 to 1990.
Justice Robinson received her J.D. from the University of Chicago Law School in 1989 and her B.A. from Dartmouth College in 1986.
Senator Patrick Leahy, (D-VT) in a statement praised the nomination. “Today is a good day for Vermont. I am incredibly proud that President Biden has nominated Vermont’s very own Justice Beth Robinson to serve as a Judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. I strongly praise President Biden for nominating Justice Robinson, who has been a tireless champion for equal rights and equal justice in the mold of the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I know that, if confirmed, Justice Robinson would serve on the Second Circuit with integrity, humility, and a deep reverence for the rule of law. And I have no doubt that she would make all Vermonters and Americans proud,” he said.
“Justice Robinson has been a steadfast public servant for the people of Vermont and has served admirably on the Vermont Supreme Court. She will make a great addition to the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, bringing the Vermont values of commitment to justice and equality, fairness, and Freedom & Unity to the bench,” said Gov. Phil Scott in a statement. “I applaud the president for making this historic nomination, and I urge the United States Senate to move expeditiously towards her confirmation.”
Charlotte Sweeney: Nominee for the United States District Court for the District of Colorado
Charlotte Sweeney is currently a partner at Sweeney & Bechtold, LLC, where she has practiced since 2008. Her law practice is devoted to representing individuals in employment law cases. Ms. Sweeney was previously a partner with LaFond & Sweeney, LLC from 1999 to 2008 and LaFond & Bove, LLC from 1997 from 1999. Ms. Sweeney began her career as an associate with LaFond & Clausen, LLC in 1995 and was named a partner at the firm in 1998.
Ms. Sweeney received her J.D. from the University of Denver College of Law in 1995 and her B.S. from California Lutheran University in 1991.
Photograph courtesy of Sweeney & Bechtold, LLC, Denver, Colorado
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White House condemns appellate court abortion pill ruling
Vice President Harris & White House Press Secretary Jean-Pierre issued separate statements objecting to the U.S. Court of Appeals ruling
WASHINGTON – Vice President Kamala Harris and White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre issued separate statements on Wednesday objecting to a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which upheld a lower court’s restrictions on access to the abortion pill mifepristone.
Both, however, noted the U.S. Supreme Court’s issuance in April of a stay in the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, which halted the enforcement of any changes to the drug’s availability pending the outcome of the appeals process.
The lawsuit aims to invalidate the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of mifepristone, a medication that scientific and medical experts overwhelmingly agree has since been proven safe and effective.
Harris and Jean-Pierre stressed that the restrictions handed down by the appellate and district courts constitute medically unnecessary barriers to reproductive healthcare, while the litigation threatens to imperil the FDA’s statutorily ordained right to exercise its expert judgment over drug products in the U.S.
“The President and I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health care,” the Vice-President said.
The press secretary echoed those comments. “The Administration will continue to stand by FDA’s independent approval of mifepristone as safe and effective,” she said adding “The Department of Justice announced that it will be seeking Supreme Court review” of the Fifth Circuit’s decision.
At this juncture, the High Court could decline to review the case, which would effectively allow the appellate court’s ruling to stand, but many legal experts believe the justices are likely to weigh in considering the importance of the legal questions at issue.
Supreme Court rules no changes to abortion pill access for now
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas opposed the decision in the 7-2 ruling issued Friday evening
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court issued a ruling Friday evening that will preserve the status quo for access to the abortion medication mifepristone pending the outcome of ongoing litigation that is now before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas opposed the decision in the 7-2 ruling, which was made pursuant to an emergency request by the U.S. Department of Justice to block rulings by lower federal courts that would have severely restricted access to the drug.
The legal battle continues to play out in the 5th Circuit, which is slated to hear oral arguments for the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, on May 17.
The case was brought on appeal from the ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, that effectively revoked the Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the drug, which would thereby prohibit the its sale and distribution even in states where abortion remains legal.
“I continue to stand by FDA’s evidence-based approval of mifepristone,” President Joe Biden said in a statement issued Friday after the High Court’s ruling. “My Administration will continue to defend FDA’s independent, expert authority to review, approve, and regulate a wide range of prescription drugs,” the President said.
A statement issued by Vice President Kamala Harris stressed the importance of preserving access to mifepristone within the context of reproductive freedoms for women.
“The President and I will continue to fight to protect a woman’s freedom to make decisions about her own body and access to reproductive health care, including medication abortion,” Harris said. “No one should stand between a woman and her doctor.”
California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s (D) statement took aim at what he characterized as partisan motivated efforts by jurists and political actors to restrict access to abortion drugs whose safety and efficacy has been well documented over more than two decades.
“The U.S. Supreme Court is right to take this action to protect access to medication abortion and put a hold on the extreme decisions of the Texas judge and the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,” the Governor said.
High Court again delays move on mifepristone access, until Friday
The two-day extension, SCOTUSblog wrote, is “unusual” – likely signaling that discussions among the justices are ongoing
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday announced an extension, through midnight on Friday, of its administrative stay of a ruling issued earlier this month by a trial judge that reverses the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s 2000 approval of the abortion pill mifepristone.
According to SCOTUSblog, “the justices are extremely likely to issue a further ruling before the administrative stay expires,” which could mean the High Court allows those restrictions to go into effect, blocks them entirely, or finds “some middle ground.”
Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, decided on April 7 by Trump-appointed Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, is now on appeal before the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.
Justice Samuel Alito, who oversees the 5th Circuit, issued the order extending the administrative stay on Kacsmaryk’s ruling until Friday, thereby preserving the status quo with respect to mifepristone access.
The two-day extension, SCOTUSblog wrote, is “unusual” – likely signaling that discussions among the justices are ongoing, possibly in preparation for a Supreme Court opinion or a “nuanced stay order.”
Kacsmaryk’s opinion, though it aligned with his judge’s well established views on abortion and was anticipated by the Biden-Harris administration as well as reproductive justice advocates, was nevertheless unusual.
The ruling provoked backlash over its circumvention of the FDA’s expertise regarding and Congressionally ordained authority over on the safety and efficacy of drugs.
Supreme Court temporarily halts abortion pill restrictions
The move by conservative Justice Samuel Alito will give the High Court until April 19 to decide whether those restrictions will be kept
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday temporarily suspended orders from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit that would have restricted the nationwide sale and distribution of the abortion medication mifepristone.
The move by conservative Justice Samuel Alito will give the High Court until Wednesday April 19 to decide whether those restrictions will be kept in place pending the outcome of litigation over the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which is now on appeal before the 5th Circuit.
Last week, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a stay of the FDA’s approval of mifepristone 23 years ago, effectively barring its sale and distribution nationwide.
On appeal, the 5th Circuit ruled late Wednesday night that access to the drug would be restricted, though not banned entirely, pending the outcome of the case.
But for the Supreme Court’s decision on Friday, which effectively preserves the status quo until next Wednesday, access to mifepristone would have required multiple doctors visits while telehealth consultations and mail order prescriptions would have been excluded.
Medication abortions account for more than half of all abortions performed each year in the United States. Mifepristone was first approved by the FDA in 2000, and the drug has since been proven safe and effective over more than two decades.
The Biden-Harris administration joined many legal observers in objecting to Kacsmaryk’s ruling, which these stakeholders considered an unlawful circumvention of the FDA’s Congressionally ordained power to evaluate the safety and efficacy of medications.
Kacsmaryk does not have formal training in science or medicine. Shortly after his ruling, 200 pharmaceutical industry executives issued an open letter arguing the move had cast such uncertainty around the drug approvals process that pipelines for new drug discovery would be threatened.
DoJ to ask High Court to halt rulings on abortion pill restrictions
DoJ will “defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care”
WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to halt a pair of rulings by a federal court in Texas and a federal appellate court in New Orleans that would restrict the sale and distribution of the abortion pill mifepristone.
Last week, Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas issued a stay of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug 23 years ago, effectively barring its sale and distribution nationwide.
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit ruled late Wednesday night that access to the drug would not be prohibited pending the outcome of litigation in the case, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA.
However, in the meantime the appellate court preserved other restrictions on mifepristone from Kacsmaryk’s ruling including: the prohibition of distributing the medicine by mail or prescribing its FDA approved generic equivalent; and requiring that it be prescribed only after three in-person visits with a healthcare provider, and only up to seven weeks of pregnancy.
“The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal,” U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in a statement on Thursday.
“We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care,” Garland said.
“We are going to continue to fight in the courts, we believe the law is on our side, and we will prevail,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters early Thursday during President Biden’s Irish trip.
The U.S. Supreme Court typically acts on such requests in a matter of days, often without explanation.
Judge’s nationwide abortion pill ban ‘could open the floodgates’
“You’re not talking about just mifepristone,” U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said on CNN
WASHINGTON – White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that Friday’s decision by a Federal court in Texas to ban the nationwide sale and distribution of the abortion pill mifepristone “could open the floodgates for other medications to be targeted and denied to people who need them.”
Following that ruling by Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, American Medical Association President Jack Resneck raised similar concerns in a statement warning that “upending longstanding drug regulatory decisions by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)” would position “other drugs at risk of being subject to similar efforts.”
“This ruling makes every medication on the market a potential target for political grandstanding,” Whitman-Walker Institute Executive Director Kellan Baker told the Washington Blade by email.
“Now that Judge Kacsmaryk has decided that he knows more about medical evidence than the FDA, the entire foundation of the FDA’s essential role in safeguarding access to medications is now subject to political attack,” Baker said.
“You’re not talking about just mifepristone,” U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Xavier Becerra said during an appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “You’re talking about every kind of drug. You’re talking about our vaccines. You’re talking about insulin. You’re talking about the new Alzheimer’s drugs that may come on.”
Likewise, in an interview on Pod Save America that aired Tuesday, University of Michigan and former U.S. Supreme Court law clerk, law professor Leah Litman agreed drugs like HIV medications, along with vaccines like those targeting HPV and Covid, or even birth control pills, could be next.
Medicines for trans youth and adults, in some cases, have been targeted with legislation passed by conservative states to restrict access to guideline directed medically necessary interventions for the treatment of gender dysphoria.
And last year, in another Federal Texas court, that judge ruled that employers can deny health coverage for PrEP, a medication used to prevent the transmission of HIV.
More litigation lies ahead, along with more uncertainty
In his ruling in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA, Kacsmaryk had issued a stay on the Food and Drug Administration’s conclusion that mifepristone is safe and effective, a finding the agency reached in 2000 that has since been buttressed by more than two decades of clinical evidence.
It was roundly denounced as unscientific, the product of the judge’s longstanding and well documented ideological opposition to abortion.
The Biden administration was prepared for Kacsmaryk’s decision, Jean-Pierre said: U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland immediately ordered the Justice Department to appeal and seek a stay (of Kacsmaryk’s stay) pending the outcome of additional litigation. On Monday the Department asked the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to halt implementation of the ruling.
Other powerful legal actors had also been on notice. On Monday, New York Attorney General Letitia James led a coalition of state attorneys general in challenging Kacsmaryk’s ruling with an amici brief filed with the 5th Circuit.
Casting additional uncertainty into the mix was a separate ruling, just hours after Kacsmaryk’s on Friday of last week, by Judge Thomas Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, who ordered the FDA to make no changes to the availability of mifepristone.
The case in Washington was brought by attorneys general from 17 states and the District of Columbia in anticipation of Kacsmaryk’s ruling, and the split decision means the matter is likely to be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
Some legal observers speculated that the Biden administration may be pushing for this outcome, hedging that even with its 6-3 conservative supermajority the Justices are likely to reject Kacsmaryk’s analysis of the relevant facts on substantive or procedural grounds.
Still, and notwithstanding the fate of other medications or vaccines in the hands of Kacsmaryk or his ideological allies on the federal bench, the court’s ruling raises other major concerns.
For example, can a federal judge circumvent the Congressionally ordained power of America’s federal administrative agencies? If so, under which circumstances? How about the practice of forum shopping, by which litigants deliberately move to have their cases adjudicated by judges they expect will be most sympathetic? And what will all of this uncertainty mean for the global biopharmaceutical industry and the future of drug discovery in America?
One solution that was proposed by at least two Democratic members of Congress, Rep Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.) and Sen. Ron Wyden (Ore.): the Biden administration should simply ignore Kacsmaryk’s ruling.
“I believe the Food and Drug Administration has the authority to ignore this ruling, which is why I’m again calling on President Biden and the FDA to do just that,” Wyden said in a statement Friday.
“If they don’t,” warned the Senator, “the consequences of banning the most common method of abortion in every single state will be devastating.”
“The courts rely on the legitimacy of their rulings, and what they are currently doing is engaging in an unprecedented erosion of their legitimacy,” Ocasio-Cortez told Anderson Cooper during an interview on CNN Friday.
On Twitter, the Congresswoman addressed the backlash against her comments, explaining that Republicans have also ignored court orders in cases where they felt they were unlawful.
GOP are losing their mind over this, but there’s precedent – including their own.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) April 9, 2023
Courts ordered Trump to fully restore DACA. They ignored it w/ Republican support.
GOP operate in complete contempt for the law until they’re in a position to shred Constitutional & human rights. https://t.co/kfxsdF5eKG
On Monday, the White House circulated an open industry letter signed by more than 200 pharmaceutical industry executives, which echoed criticisms of Kacsmaryk’s ruling that noted his lack of formal education or training in science or medicine.
The executives’ letter also argued the decision presents systemic risks to the drug discovery pipeline.
“As an industry we count on the FDA’s autonomy and authority to bring new medicines to patients under a reliable regulatory process for drug evaluation and approval,” the group wrote.
“Adding regulatory uncertainty to the already inherently risky work of discovering and developing new medicines will likely have the effect of reducing incentives for investment, endangering the innovation that characterizes our industry.”
Supreme Court: Oral arguments in LGBTQ 303 Creative case
Civil rights & legal advocacy groups fear a ruling that could endanger marginalized people protected by nondiscrimination laws
WASHINGTON- The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday heard oral arguments in 303 Creative v. Elenis, a case that could carry broad implications for whether and in which circumstances states may enforce nondiscrimination rules against purveyors of goods and services.
The case was brought by website designer Lorie Smith, who sought to include a disclaimer that her company 303 Creative would not develop wedding announcement websites for LGBTQ couples, but discovered that such a notice would violate Colorado’s antidiscrimination laws, which include sexual orientation as a protected class.
Her lawsuit against the state of Colorado, argued by counsel from the anti-LGBTQ group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), reaches the Supreme Court following the ruling against Smith from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, which created a circuit split with decisions from the 8th Circuit and Arizona Supreme Court. A ruling is expected to come in June.
The fact pattern in 303 Creative closely mirrors the 2018 case Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, where the Supreme Court declined to rule on the broader legal questions because it found the Commission exhibited hostility toward the religious views of the bakery that refused to design a custom wedding cake for a same-sex couple.
The high court has since moved substantially to the right, with a 6-3 conservative supermajority. Colorado is one of 20 states that enforces laws prohibiting businesses from discrimination based on sexual orientation, and a ruling that would allow for broadly construed exemptions to be carved out for firms based on their First Amendment protections would carry implications well beyond the context of same-sex marriage.
Monday’s oral arguments focused on preexisting and hypothetical cases that were presented by counsel from both parties as well as by the justices, examples whose scope and fact patterns reinforced the breadth of the legal issues in play in 303 Creative.
Colorado Solicitor General Eric Olson and U.S. Principal Deputy Solicitor General Brian Fletcher pointed to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights, 2006, which found that the federal government may withhold funding from universities that, based on their objections to “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” refuse to grant military recruiters access to their resources.
ADF CEO, President and General Counsel Kristen Waggoner cited the Supreme Court’s decision in Hurley v. Irish American Gay, Lesbian, and Bisexual Group of Boston, 1995, which upheld the right of private organizations to exclude participation by certain groups without interference by the state, even if that intervention by the government was for the purpose of preventing discrimination.
Much of the discussion during Monday’s oral arguments centered on what kinds of goods and services may be considered public accommodations and which constitute artistic speech or expression by the business provider. Also at issue were questions such as whether their refusal to accommodate certain events – i.e., same-sex weddings – are tantamount to refusing goods and services to members of a protected class of people under the state’s nondiscrimination laws.
LGBTQ rights groups fear the implications of a ruling in favor of 303 Creative
ADF is designated an anti-LGBTQ extremist group by the Southern Poverty Law Center. An amicus brief was filed in support of the government by the corporate law firm White & Case along with a coalition of LGBTQ rights groups and legal advocacy groups: the National LGBTQ Task Force, GLAD, the National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, and the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).
“Just two weeks after a shooter killed 5 people, injured 18, and traumatized so many others at Club Q in Colorado Springs, the United States Supreme Court prepares to hear oral arguments in an anti-LGBTQ public accommodations discrimination case from Colorado,” wrote the National LGBTQ Task Force in a statement addressing Monday’s oral arguments.
Liz Seaton, the group’s policy director, highlighted the importance of public accommodations laws and condemned efforts by the opposition to legalize discrimination and segregation in the marketplace. “The brief’s most important argument lifts up the powerful amicus briefs of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund and of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law,” Seaton said. “Those two briefs by venerable civil rights organizations provide a detailed history of public accommodations discrimination against Black and Brown people in this country.”
HRC’s statement on Monday touched on similar themes:
“Granting the unprecedented ‘free speech exemption’ sought by petitioners in 303 Creative v. Elenis would be a dangerous change to long standing constitutional and civil rights law. It would inevitably lead to increased discrimination not only related to LGBTQ+ people or weddings, but also for other vulnerable populations including women, people with disabilities, and people of minority faiths. It’s crucial that justices of the Supreme Court reject discrimination and affirm the equal dignity of every American.”
Likewise, the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus released a statement exploring the broad implications that could result from the Court’s ruling on 303 Creative:
“…the Supreme Court could issue a broad ruling that not only implicates nondiscrimination laws’ applications to graphic designers but to a wide range of businesses providing goods and services that have an artistic component. A broad ruling for the graphic designer could not only provide a constitutional basis for discriminating against same-sex couples, but also for discriminating against all marginalized people currently protected by public accommodations nondiscrimination laws.”
Female inmates sue California over trans females in female prisons
FRESNO – A lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of California is seeking to overturn Senate Bill 132, the law signed by Governor Gavin Newsom in September 2020 which allows incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex people to be housed and searched in a manner consistent with their gender identity.
The measure, authored by state Senator Scott Wiener, (D-SF) SB 132 was designed to ensure the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation’s efforts to provide a safe, humane, respectful and rehabilitative environment for the incarcerated transgender, non-binary and intersex community.
However, the inmates and the group that filed the lawsuit, the Women’s Liberation Front, which also opposes transgender athletes’ participation in girl’s and women’s sports, are alleging in the suit that the law is unconstitutional and that the requirements of SB132 creates an unsafe environment for women in female facilities.
The Sacramento Bee reported that several of the plaintiffs report being victims of domestic violence in the past. Additionally, several of the plaintiffs also cite their religious beliefs, which they argue are impaired by being placed in shared custody with transgender women.
In a statement to the Blade on Friday, Senator Wiener said;
“We passed SB 132 so that trans people who are incarcerated can be safer and can be who they are. SB 132 is about respecting the basic dignity and agency of trans people. The proponents of this lawsuit have a long history of attacking trans people – trying to erase them, denying their existence, and classifying them as scam artists and rapists.
The bogus rationale for this lawsuit – that trans people are faking it so they can rape cisgender women – is no different than the bogus rationale for the North Carolina trans bathroom bill. These attacks fuel violence against trans women and the high suicide rate among trans youth. I’ll continue to support our trans siblings and will always fight for them.”
In the court documents filed, the Women’s Liberation Front along with another group listed as a plantiff, Woman II Woman, that advocates on behalf of incarcerated women, the groups misgender inmates who transfer to female facilities referring to them as men and not as female or using nonbinary pronouns such as she or they.
Texas AG Paxton sues Biden administration over LGBTQ protections
“States should be able to choose protection of privacy for their employers- this illegal guidance puts many women and children at risk”
AMARILLO, Tx. – In a 19 page long lawsuit filed Monday in the Northern District of Texas federal court, Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton argued that the state, as an employer, has the “sovereign right” to choose its own workplace policies regarding LGBTQ policies and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, (EEOC) guidance issued this past June amounts to “extreme federal overreach” by the Biden Administration.
“States should be able to choose protection of privacy for their employers over subjective views of gender, and this illegal guidance puts many women and children at risk,” Paxton said in a statement after filing the lawsuit. “If the Biden administration thinks they can force states to comply with their political agenda, my office will fight against their radical attempt at social change.”
He added, “These backdoor attempts to force businesses, including the state of Texas, to align with their beliefs is unacceptable.”
“The filing by Texas is yet another wake-up call that we urgently need to enact federal legislation to codify Bostock, the Supreme Court’s recent decision holding that federal sex discrimination laws protect LGBTQ people,” said Shannon Minter, Legal Director, the National Center for Lesbian Rights in an email to the Blade.
“Texas and other red states are on a mission to radically limit the Court’s holding in Bostock and to strip transgender people, in particular, of essential protections,” Minter added.
The EEOC guidance was issued in response to the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark 2020 ruling in Bostock v. Clayton County, which said discrimination against gay and transgender workers is a form of unlawful sex bias under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The EEOC guidance relies on a U.S. Supreme Court ruling from last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. In a 6-3 ruling authored by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the high court’s majority held that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends employment discrimination protections to cover LGBTQ people.
Paxton’s lawsuit claims the guidance violates Title VII by treating sex and gender identity the same.
“The June 15 guidance explicitly allows sex-specific bathrooms and implicitly allows sex-specific dress codes and pronoun usage policies as a general matter,” the lawsuit states. “But it then ‘tries to work around [those concessions] with a linguistic device’ by conflating ‘sex’ with ‘gender identity.’”
The suit filed Monday is in addition to a separate legal challenge by 20 other Republican-led states this past August. That challenge to the EEOC memo adds in also a separate U.S. Department of Education directive covering the rights of transgender students. Those states, led by Tennessee, moved for a preliminary injunction earlier this month.
Defendants in the lawsuit include the EEOC, commission Chair Charlotte A. Burrows and U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland.
Transgender Texans have long been a target of Republican state officials, the Texas Tribune reported. In 2017, the state Legislature attempted to pass Senate Bill 6, known as the “bathroom bill,” that would have required transgender people to use bathrooms in public schools, government buildings and public universities based on their gender assigned at birth. However, the bill failed to pass even during a subsequent special session.
The Tribune further noted that lawmakers introduced numerous bills targeting transgender Texans, including legislation that would restrict transgender student athletes’ participation in school sports and prohibit doctors from offering gender-affirming medical care. But neither of those measures made it to Gov. Greg Abbott’s desk.
In all three special sessions he’s called since May, Abbott has made limiting transgender student athletes’ sports participation a priority. No such measure passed during the first two special sessions. This year’s third special session started Monday.
Supreme Court orders Trump’s Migration Protection Protocols restarted
“The Biden administration was correct to rescind the Trump policy, the whole point of which was to punish people for seeking asylum”
WASHINGTON – The U. S. Supreme Court Tuesday ordered the Biden Administration to restart the Migration Protection Protocols, (MPP) program upholding a lower court order enjoining the Administration’s termination of the program.
The High Court’s action allows a lower court order to take effect, and the government is now required to make good faith efforts to restart the MPP program while litigation continues. The suit, filed in U. S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas, Biden v. State of Texas et al, was to get an injunction issued that would stay the termination of the program while the litigation brought by Texas and Missouri worked through the federal courts.
The Supreme Court’s conservative majority on Tuesday upheld a U.S. District Court Judge in Texas order that would require the Biden administration to follow President Trump’s “Remain in Mexico” policy that sought to deter Central American migrants from seeking asylum in the United States.
The decision is a sharp setback for immigrants’ rights advocates who believed the new administration could reverse most of Trump’s strict enforcement policies.
The American Civil Liberties Union, (ACLU) and partners challenged MPP when it was initially instituted, winning court orders finding the program unlawful. The Biden administration suspended the program in January and fully ended it in June, following through on President Biden’s promise as a candidate to end the program if elected. Today’s action comes in a suit brought by the states of Texas and Missouri that seeks to reverse the Biden administration’s decision.
The American Civil Liberties Union and ACLU of Texas submitted an amicus brief to the Supreme Court yesterday supporting the federal government’s request for a stay of the lower court ruling.
Omar Jadwat, director of the ACLU’s Immigrants’ Rights Project, had the following reaction to tonight’s Supreme Court developments:
“The Biden administration was correct to rescind the Trump return to Mexico policy, the whole point of which was to punish people for seeking asylum by trapping them in miserable and dangerous conditions.
“The government must take all steps available to fully end this illegal program, including by re-terminating it with a fuller explanation. What it must not do is use this decision as cover for abandoning its commitment to restore a fair asylum system.”
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