June 15 will be the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Bostock v. Clayton County, holding that federal law prohibits employment discrimination against LGBTQ workers.
As if to mark the occasion, a group of anti-LGBT activists and churches based in Texas asked a federal judge this week to issue a sweeping ruling that could seriously undermine Bostock.
In its 6-3 decision last June, the high court affirmed that the prohibition on sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 extends to discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The ruling upheld a position that the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which administers and enforces civil-rights laws, has taken since 2015.
The Texas-based group, which includes hate-group leader Steve Hotze (pictured) as well as the U.S. Pastor Council, is seeking exemptions to both Bostock and EEOC policy that would allow employers to discriminate against LGBT workers based on sincerely held religious beliefs, under the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act and/or the free-exercise clause of the First Amendment.
“The plaintiffs have sincere and deeply held religious beliefs that marriage is limited to a man and a woman, that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that men and women are to dress and behave in accordance with distinct and God-ordained, biological sexual identity,” the plaintiffs wrote in a brief filed Monday. “Title VII, as interpreted in Bostock, requires that the plaintiffs operate their businesses contrary to their religious beliefs by denying them the ability to prescribe standards of conduct and deportment for their employees. At the same time, the plaintiffs believe that they are called by God to obey the civil authorities. So they are caught in a bind, and until this Court grants the declaratory relief that the plaintiffs seek, the plaintiffs have no way to avoid violating their religious beliefs.”
Moreover, the plaintiffs allege, Bostock should not bar employers from enacting policies, for religious or non-religious reasons, that target “practicing homosexual and transgender individuals” based on “homosexual or transgender conduct.”
“It is easy to imagine rules that comply with Bostock by applying equally to men and women, yet operate to exclude homosexual or transgender individuals from employment,” the plaintiffs wrote, before proposing the following examples:
• “No employee, male or female, may enter a gay bar or gay bathhouse.”
• “No employee, male or female, may engage in the sexual practices associated with homosexuality.”
• “No employee, male or female, may engage in ‘deviate sexual intercourse,’ as that term is defined in section 25.02 of the Texas Penal Code.”
• “No employee, male or female, may use Grindr (or other dating apps used primarily by homosexuals).”
• “No employee, male or female, may seek or obtain hormone therapy unless it is prescribed for a medical condition other than gender dysphoria.”
• “No employee, male or female, may undergo surgery to modify their genitals, unless that surgery is needed for a medical condition other than gender dysphoria.”
Elsewhere in the brief, the plaintiffs argue that Bostock should apply only to gay and transgender workers, and should not prohibit employers from discriminating against people of other sexual orientations, including bisexual folks.
In addition to summary judgment and a permanent injunction against the EEOC, the plaintiffs are seeking class-action status for their lawsuit. And, sadly, they seem likely to prevail — at least at the district court level.
The case is in the Fort Worth division of the Northern District of Texas, which is presided over by U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor, who is among the nation’s most notorious right-wing federal judges. O’Connor previously issued high-profile decisions striking down the Affordable Care Act and gutting Obama-era transgender protections.
Back in February, after O’Connor initially allowed the Bostock religious exemption lawsuit to move forward, LGBTQ advocates slammed the decision.
Adrian Shanker, executive director of Bradbury-Sullivan LGBT Community Center, told the Philadelphia Gay News: “Judge O’Connor’s ruling misrepresents the clarity the Supreme Court provided in Bostock in favor of unnecessary and harmful religious exemptions to basic civil rights protections. Conservatives like to complain about judicial activism. But Judge O’Connor is the poster child for it with his repetitively fringe rulings that only a far-right zealot would find sensible. His ruling is a reminder that it is so critical that Congress passes explicit federal non-discrimination protections this year.”
Justin F. Robinette, a civil-rights attorney, told the newspaper he is expecting “another unfavorable ruling from Judge O’Connor and potential appeals.”
“The underlying lawsuit is part of a worrisome trend of putative Christian groups reframing the enforcement of LGBT-inclusive antibias laws as a form of discrimination against their religion,” Robinette said. “They want to create a right to discriminate that — taken to its extreme — would exempt them from every civil law, including the civil rights laws and the recent Supreme Court ruling in Bostock.”
Attorneys representing the EEOC from the Department of Justice have not yet filed a response to the plaintiffs’ motion for summary judgment. You can read the plaintiffs’ brief in support of the motion below.
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Cops Called After COVID-Positive Palin’s Dinner Partner Allegedly Accosts Photographer
Sarah Palin, who is unvaccinated and recently tested positive for COVID-19 three times, was caught dining out in New York City Wednesday evening. A credentialed news photographer was reportedly accosted after he asked her dining companions if they were “concerned” the Republican former governor “tested positive for COVID.”
One man stood up, walked over to the photographer, and according to the website Upper East Site, “roughed up a news photographer filming them dining outdoors.”
Palin, who is in NYC for her defamation case against The New York Times, waved at the photographer, but one of her dinner companions got up and repeatedly asked the journalist, “Are you looking for trouble?” as the video below shows.
“Are you going to hurt –?” the photographer replied, but then the camera shakes as if it had been knocked down, and the video ends.
“The unidentified, large man dining with Palin grabbed the victim’s fingers with both hands, wrenching and twisting them down, slamming the camera to the concrete, the photographer told Upper East Site.”
Police were called and an assault report was filed, Upper East Site reports.
Looks like Sarah Palin’s dinner date wasn’t happy about being filmed. pic.twitter.com/sM8JSBSIZJ
— Ron Filipkowski (@RonFilipkowski) January 28, 2022
Read the entire story here.
Image by Gage Skidmore via Flickr and a CC license
Josh Hawley’s ‘Losing Fight’ Against Biden’s Supreme Court Nominee Mocked by Conservative Strategist
Republicans will be making a political mistake if they seek to go all-in against President Joe Biden’s nomination to replace Stephen Breyer on the U.S. Supreme Court, a top GOP strategist explained on Friday.
Former George W. Bush White House speechwriter Marc Thiessen wrote in The Washington Post that “while Biden now gets to pick a justice, he is powerless to change the court’s ideological makeup.”
“The truth is, while every Supreme Court appointment is consequential, this will be the least consequential appointment in decades. So, Republicans should be gracious in victory, and let Democrats have their day,” he counseled.
His advice runs contrary to the approach of one GOP senator.
“Already, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is warning that if Biden “chooses to nominate a left wing activist who will bless his campaign against parents, his abuse of the FBI, his refusal to enforce our immigration laws, and his lawless vaccine mandates, expect a major battle in the Senate.” Here’s a better idea: Unless Biden appoints someone obviously unqualified, don’t pick a losing fight,” he wrote. “After all, the confirmation of Biden’s nominee is virtually assured. Sens. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) have supported all of Biden’s judicial nominees, and it is difficult to imagine that they will treat this one differently.”
He urged Republican senators to treat the nominee “graciously.”
Read the full column.
Palm Beach Lawmaker Sues Local Paper Over Attempt to Access Jeffrey Epstein Records
The Palm Beach Post is reporting that the local County Clerk of the Courts is asking the courts to make the paper pay the legal fees he incurred while blocking attempts to access grand jury records related to a 2006 Jeffrey Epstein investigation.
Getting right to the point, the Post’s Jane Musgrave wrote, “Despite insisting he wants the public to know why serial molester Jeffrey Epstein escaped serious punishment 15 years ago, Palm Beach County Clerk of Courts Joe Abruzzo wants to punish The Palm Beach Post for trying to open secret records that could do just that.”
As the report notes, Abruzzo employed the Tampa law firm belonging to Shane Vogt to fight the request at a cost of $32,794 and, in a motion before Circuit Judge Donald Hafele, seeks double that plus additional costs.
At issue are the grand jury transcripts that the Florida lawmaker successfully kept away from the paper.
Explaining the Post’s case, Musgrave wrote, “The newspaper went to court after records showed only one teen was called to testify to the grand jury even though dozens told police Epstein sexually abused them at his Palm Beach mansion.”
“Further, sources familiar with the grand jury proceedings said the 14-year-old girl was vilified by state prosecutors,” she added. “Rather than focus on her claims of abuse, lieutenants for then-State Attorney Barry Krischer quizzed her about her online social media posts where she talked about drinking and boys, they said.”
The report continued, “In court papers, The Post’s attorneys argued that releasing the records would reveal what happened and whether Krischer bowed to pressure from Epstein’s high-octane defense team.”
You can read more here.
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