Posts Tagged ‘sexual orientation’

New on LGBT issues and the law: religious tax exemptions, Title VII coverage

On Thursday evening, “at a CNN candidate forum on gay rights, CNN’s Don Lemon asked Democratic candidate Beto O’Rourke: ‘religious institutions like colleges, churches, charities. Should they lose their tax-exempt status if they oppose same-sex marriage?’ O’Rourke answered ‘Yes’.” But O’Rourke’s dead wrong as a matter of politics, policy, and law, as I explain Friday post at Cato. I call his proposal “illiberal, anti-pluralist, inflammatory — and unconstitutional under current Supreme Court precedent,” and that’s just getting started. More: Bonnie Kristian/The Week; Charlie Nash, Mediaite (O’Rourke’s comments blasted by writers from across ideological spectrum). And: Dale Carpenter (principle of viewpoint neutrality in tax exemption law was vital to early gay rights movement; arguments O’Rourke uses against conservative Christians now are the arguments used against gays then).

And I’ve also published a new piece at The Bulwark on the legal arguments about whether the 1964 Civil Rights Act’s reference to “sex” should be construed to include sexual orientation and gender identity, a move I call “surprise plain meaning” and which is by no means unprecedented in the Supreme Court’s handling of employment discrimination law. More broadly, I examine and reject the notion that for the Court to ponder these questions is to put anyone’s “humanity up for debate.” Earlier on Bostock, Altitude Express, and Harris Funeral Home here, here, here, and here, and more from Dale Carpenter and Scott Shackford. Scott Greenfield responds.

For those keeping track, this makes three pieces I’ve published in two days, counting yesterday’s Wall Street Journal piece, all related to sexual orientation and the law although unrelated otherwise.

Discrimination law roundup

  • Supreme Court reconvenes for new term and tomorrow will hear cases over whether Title VII ban on sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation and gender identity [SCOTUSBlog symposium with contributors including Richard Epstein, William Eskridge; Will Baude, Volokh Conspiracy; George Will; earlier here, here, here, etc.]
  • New York City Commission on Human Rights declares it a violation of anti-discrimination law to use the term “illegal alien” in workplace, rental, or public accommodation contexts “with the intent to demean, humiliate, or offend a person or persons.” Does it complicate matters that both federal law and the U.S. Supreme Court use “illegal alien” as a neutral descriptive? [Hans Bader]
  • Minneapolis passes law restricting landlords’ taking into account of tenants’ past criminal histories, evictions, credit scores [Christian Britschgi, Reason]
  • Obama-era Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) mandated burdensome pay data reporting by employers. Will courts allow a course correction? [Federalist Society teleforum with G. Roger King and James A. Paretti Jr., earlier here and here]
  • Professor who directs social justice center at Washington, D.C.’s American University proposes new federal Department of Anti-Racism that would wield ample power to order everyone around along with preclearance authority over all “local, state and federal public policies”; also “no political appointees” [Politico via Amy Alkon; Kelefa Sanneh, The New Yorker with more on work of Prof. Ibram X. Kendi]
  • Late in its tenure, Obama administration began warning Fannie Mae that discouraging some of the riskiest mortgages (>43% debt-to-income) “could be seen as a violation of the Fair Housing Act.” Fannie and Freddie “quickly complied” and brought the punch bowl back out [Damian Paletta, Washington Post/MSN]

“If it’s speech, you can’t force it.”

The Arizona Supreme Court made the right call, in my view, in ruling that it is forced expression for the city of Phoenix to require a wedding-calligraphy studio to inscribe invitations for weddings that go against its owner-artists’ religious scruples: “If it’s speech, you can’t force it.” The ruling is based on both the state constitution and on Arizona’s version of RFRA (religious freedom restoration act). [Lindsay Walker, Cronkite News/Arizona PBS; Eugene Volokh and Dale Carpenter (filed with Cato in the case on behalf of the studio); earlier here, etc., and related]

The latter part of the ruling does seem to result in a broader than usual reading of a state RFRA, because most state courts have declined to interpret the laws to provide very much protection for religious objectors in public-accommodation cases; their logic has been that reducing discrimination is a compelling state interest that cannot be enforced in a less restrictive way.

May 22 roundup

  • My comment on the House-passed H.R. 5: “Proposed Equality Act would 1) massively expand federal liability in areas unrelated to sex, gender, or orientation; 2) turn 1000s of routine customer gripes into federal public-accommodations cases; 3) squeeze conscience exemptions hard. All are good reasons to oppose.” More: Scott Shackford, Elizabeth Nolan Brown, Hans Bader, and earlier here and here;
  • America is not in a constitutional crisis: “Politicians have become incentivized to declare constitutional crises because it enhances their own importance as saviors and demonizes their opponents as illegitimate.” [Keith Whittington; Vox mini-symposium with Ilya Somin and others] Mike McConnell vs. Josh Chafetz on whether the current Congressional subpoena fights are really that different from politics of the past [Jonathan Adler] Calm, down-the-middle analysis of the issues raised by the Mueller report [Cato Institute chairman Bob Levy]
  • “Mercedes Goes To Court To Get Background Use Of Public Murals In Promotional Pics Deemed Fair Use” [Timothy Geigner]
  • Bizarro sovereign-citizen notions are found in the background of more than a few serious financial fraud cases [Ashley Powers, New York Times]
  • Divestment and sanctions by state governments aimed at other U.S. states is a bad idea that never seems to go away. Now it’s being floated in Maryland, against Alabama [my Free State Notes post]
  • “A federal judge in Texas wants you to know she’s sick and tired of whiny lawyers” [Justin Rohrlich, Quartz from December, Brad Heath on Twitter; Align Technology v. ClearCorrect, Judge Vanessa D. Gilmore]

May 15 roundup

  • “Banana Costume Copyright Assailed at Third Circuit” [Emilee Larkin, Courthouse News, earlier]
  • In a new piece for The Bulwark, I sort through some comments by presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg critical of identity politics;
  • Supreme Court’s decision in Apple v. Pepper, with Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining four liberals, takes a little nick out of Illinois Brick doctrine limiting antitrust suits [my new Cato post]
  • Ninth Circuit will soon hear case in which judge ordered Idaho prison system to provide inmate with transgender surgery; I’m quoted saying lower court decision amounted to battle of the experts [Amanda Peacher, NPR/KBSX, plus followup piece (“medical necessity” not a fixed standard, definitions of cruel and unusual punishment hitched in some ways to public opinion) and NPR “Morning Edition”; audio clip]
  • “The Moral Panic Behind Internet Regulation” [Matthew Lesh, Quillette] “A Single Global Standard for Internet Content Regulation Is a Recipe for Censorship” [Jacob Mchangama, Quillette] And Jonah Goldberg on right-wing rage at social media platform moderation;
  • Some politicos in Britain engage in “‘karaoke Thatcherism’, preaching low-tax, low-regulation mantras divorced from new challenges or detail,” then falling for truly bad ideas like laws to assure real estate tenants indefinite tenure against owners’ wishes [Ryan Bourne]

Does existing law ban workplace bias against gays? SCOTUS will decide

My new post at Cato covers the Supreme Court’s decision to resolve three cases in which it is argued that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act bans private workplace discrimination against gay and transgender employees. I cite a 2017 Seventh Circuit showdown on the question between Judges Richard Posner and Diane Sykes: “These philosophical divides on statutory interpretation — which of course play out every term in lower-profile cases — are likely to be on the Court’s mind next fall.” More: Jared Odessky, On Labor (rounding up commentary).

Anti-discrimination law and the future of adoption

I’ve posted before about our July Cato conference on adoption, pluralism, and children’s interests. Now Cato’s bimonthly Policy Report has published highlights of the panel on anti-discrimination law and religious agencies, with speakers including Stephanie Barclay of BYU, Sarah Warbelow of the Human Rights Campaign, Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois, and me.

One of my comments about pluralism and freedom in the system: “When I began reading about adoption, I realized for about the umpteenth time how glad I was to live in America.” Not that the system isn’t full of problems: on the grueling 26-year litigation in the New York City foster care case, Wilder v. Bernstein, see this 2011 piece of mine.

Cato adoption conference now online

More kids find homes when government doesn’t stand in the way: videos are now online from Thursday’s successful Cato adoption conference. They include a first panel on discrimination law and religious agencies:

A keynote address on international adoption by Harvard law Prof. Elizabeth Bartholet:

And a final panel on policy obstacles to adoption.


I figure in all three sessions, in the first as introducer/panelist and in the other two as moderator.

U.S. House moves to side with religious agencies in adoption debate

Three years ago I took a critical view of the trend in many states and cities toward excluding from publicly funded adoptive placement of kids in public care relatively conservative religious agencies that decline to handle placements to families outside their belief group, to non-traditional families such as same-sex couples and single parents, or both. In recent years the ACLU and like-minded groups have stepped up the pressure with lawsuits in states like Michigan aimed at excluding these groups from access to public money unless they take all kinds of families.

Now a bill called the Child Welfare Provider Inclusion Act (H.R. 1881/S.B. 811), passed by the House of Representatives as a rider on the pending Labor/HHS appropriations bill, would prohibit states from taking adverse action against foster care and adoption agencies on the grounds that they refuse to engage in referrals, placements or other services that conflict with their religious or moral convictions. States found to have violated the rule would be subject to loss of 15 percent of their federal child welfare funding. The rule broadly prohibits “discriminating or taking an adverse action against” agencies and would give agencies broad legal remedies including attorneys’ fees.

I haven’t had a chance yet to review all the details of the bill, which in any case would need approval of the Senate and President before becoming law. The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention (ERLC) and U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops have papers in favor of the measure and Human Rights Campaign against.

In the mean time a well reported, balanced piece by Gillian Friedman on the controversy mentions tomorrow’s (Thursday’s) Cato conference in D.C. on adoption policy [Deseret News; more/related, Bobby Ross, Jr., Religion News Service in March] The panel on this subject leads off the conference, and includes Assistant Professor Stephanie Barclay of the J. Reuben Clarke School of Law at Brigham Young University; Sarah Warbelow, Legal Director at the Human Rights Campaign; Prof. Robin Fretwell Wilson of the University of Illinois College of Law; and me.