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US Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Same-Sex Benefits Case



Decision Comes One Day Before SCOTUS Hears Pivotal Anti-Gay Wedding Cake Baker’s Case 

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear a case from Houston’s appeal of a lower court ruling that said the right to a marriage license did not entitle same-sex couples to spousal benefits under employee insurance plans. The case, Pidgeon v. Turner challenged then-Houston Mayor Annise Parker’s announcement that the city would begin offering health insurance and other benefits to the same-sex spouses of city employees.

The case began in late 2013 when two Houston taxpayers sued Mayor Parker and the City of Houston after city officials determined that an earlier U.S. Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Windsor, striking down part of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), required that benefits be equally available to the legal different-sex or same-sex spouses of city employees.

A Texas state district judge initially ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but the Texas 14th Court of Appeals overturned that decision in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling.

The plaintiffs then petitioned the Texas Supreme Court for review, which initially declined to hear the case. However, after a concerted campaign lead by Texas Republicans, Governor Greg Abbott, Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick, and Attorney General Ken Paxton, the state’s High Court reversed itself and agreed to hear the case. That hearing took place on March 1, 2017. The plaintiffs and several “family values” Christian groups in Texas held that Obergefell didn’t settle the question of whether married same-sex couples must receive same spousal benefits as different-sex couples.

In its decision released last June 30, the court ruled against Houston in its ruling, writing, “But Obergefell is not the end either. Already, the Supreme Court has taken one opportunity to address Obergefell’s impact on an issue it did not address in Obergefell, and there will undoubtedly be others.” 

LGBTQI legal rights advocacy group, Lambda Legal, in response to the Texas Supreme Court decision in June said:

“This absurd contortion of the Obergefell ruling defies all logic and reason, especially in light of the Supreme Court’s explicit ruling on Monday that marriage is marriage and equal is equal. We will take steps to protect these families,” said Kenneth D. Upton, Jr., Senior Counsel in Lambda Legal’s South Central Regional Office in Dallas. “The Court was very clear in the majority opinion about the scope of what marriage entails.”

“This decision is political and is an example of why elected judges are bad for LGBT people and bad for judicial independence,” added Eric Lesh, Fair Courts Project Director at Lambda Legal. 

The U.S. Supreme Court’s action returns the decision to the lower courts in Texas for further appellate action and although SCOTUS’s action set no nationwide legal precedent, it still may give a boost to conservative efforts to limit the effects of its decision in the case Obergefell v. Hodges that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to gay couples under the Constitution. The case will now proceed in a Texas state court.

LGBTQI advocacy groups raised an alarm Monday as they see the Supreme Court’s actions as giving leeway to conservative groups and conservative justices to chip away at LGBTQI Marriage Equality. GLAAD’s Executive Director, Sarah Kate Ellis, noted in an emailed statement that the denial of certiorari in the Houston Case is troubling given that this ruling occurred one day prior to SCOTUS hearing oral arguments on another yet another case with serious implications for the LGBTQI community.

“With all eyes on tomorrow’s oral arguments in the Masterpiece Cakeshop religious exemptions case, the Supreme Court has just let an alarming ruling by the Texas Supreme Court stand which plainly undercuts the rights of married same-sex couples,” Ellis said. “Today’s abnegation by the nation’s highest court opens the door for an onslaught of challenges to the rights of LGBTQ people at every step.”

That case, Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, arrays Christian conservative groups against the LGBTQI community. The case was brought by another anti-LGBTQI family values legal group, the Alliance Defending Freedom, representing a Colorado bakery owner, and cake artist Jack Phillips.

Phillips claimed he couldn’t design a custom wedding cake for two men who requested it sayting in court documents that “using his artistic talents to celebrate a same-sex marriage would violate his Christian faith and his artistic freedom.”

The High Court will have to decide between three constitutional rights: “sexual equality, freedom of religion and freedom of expression” in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case. Proponents of LGBTQI equality say that a decision in favor of Phillips would have a chilling effect on equality for LGBTQI people. The stakes are high, and could open the door for conservative businesses to spurn gay couples. 

The Trump administration, around twenty American states, dozens of members of Congress and countless Christian and conservative pressure groups have backed Phillips.

Brody Levesque is the Chief Political Correspondent for The New Civil Rights Movement.
You may contact Brody at

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Image by Joe Ravi via Wikimedia and a CC-BY-SA 3.0 license

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Watch: Bill Barr Has Talked to Jan. 6 Committee Says Chairman



Bill Barr, the former Attorney General who served as then-President Donald Trump’s top protector, has spoken with the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack.

Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-MS), asked by CBS News about a bombshell draft executive order directing the Secretary of Defense to seize voting machines after Trump lost the 2020 presidential election, said: “We’ve had conversations with the former attorney general already. We have talked to Department of Defense individuals.”

“We are concerned that our military was part of this big lie on promoting that the election was false,” Thompson said Sunday morning on “Face the Nation.”

“So, if you are using the military to potentially seize voting machines, even though it’s a discussion, the public needs to know. We’ve never had that before.”

The draft memo was never formalized or enacted, and it is unknown who wrote it, but it was part of a massive, hard-fought document collection given to the Jan. 6 Committee by the National Archives after the Supreme Court refused to block its release. Trump tried for months to keep his official White House records from being released.




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Trump Instructed Michael Cohen to Make Sure Don Jr. Went to Jail Instead of Ivanka



According to a report from Business Insider, Michael Cohen admitted on Saturday that Donald Trump instructed him in 2012 to make sure that Don Trump Jr. be the one to take the fall instead of Ivanka Trump during an investigation by Manhattan’s district attorney into lying about property sales.

In an interview with MSNBC’s Alex Witt, Cohen recalled that the former president was concerned about Ivanka’s well-being if she was sentenced to jail and that Don Jr. would handle it better.

According to the report, Cohen told the MSNBC host, “You may recall that there was the district attorney’s case here for Trump Soho where it was either Don or Ivanka was in very big trouble as a result of lying about the number of units that had been sold.”

RELATED: ’She took that West Wing office!’: Ivanka Trump blasted for trying to ‘blow off’ Jan. 6 probe

“And Donald said it to me – I mean I wouldn’t say it if it wasn’t said directly to me – he goes ‘if one or the other has to go to prison, make sure that it’s Don because Don would be able to handle it, ” he continued.

Cohen later said that he doesn’t expect Ivanka to willingly appear before the House committee investigating the Jan 6th insurrection and claimed the first daughter would likely plead the 5th before explaining, “Ivanka is only interested in Ivanka.”

You can read more here.

Image by Walt Disney Television/ABC/Ida Mae Astute via Flickr and a CC license

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Trumps Could ‘Turn on One Another’ as Investigations ‘Go Up the Food Chain’: MSNBC Analyst



Former president Donald Trump and his family are facing “existential” threats from ongoing criminal investigations in New York and Georgia, according to MSNBC political analyst and Trump biographer Tim O’Brien.

“I think you’re going to start to see this vice squeeze in,” O’Brien said Saturday. “The Trumps will happily throw underlings under the bus as this gets hotter. I think the question is whether or not the family members will turn on one another as it goes up the food chain.”

“The Manhattan DA’s case has existential consequences to it,” O’Brien added. “Donald Trump and perhaps his children could end up in orange jumpsuits if that case goes the full route. That’s not going to be the case with (New York AG) Letitia James’ prosecution, that’s a civil case. I also think the Georgia case has an existential threat. Donald Trump acting like a 19th-century ward heeler, called up the secretary of state and said find me some votes, and there’s proof of that, there’s evidence.”

Watch the full interview below.


Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license

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