The Supreme Court Is at Stake: Why the Presidential Election Matters

Judith McDaniel | Truthout | May 15, 2016

The US Supreme Court in Washington, April 4, 2016. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)A US Supreme Court for the few or the many? Not voting gives your voice to others to decide. (Photo: Zach Gibson / The New York Times)


It is no secret that the makeup of the US Supreme Court will be a major issue as the fall election campaigns unfold. And yet, many voters will choose not to vote. “It’s too much effort. I forgot to register when I moved. My vote won’t matter.”

I’ve heard every excuse, but whatever the reason, not voting gives power to others to make decisions that do in fact affect most of our lives.

Examples? Here are some cases and issues to watch.

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Religious Liberty Bill Clears West Virginia House

Carlos Santoscoy | On Top Magazine | February 12, 2016

The West Virginia House of Delegates on Thursday overwhelmingly approved a “religious freedom” bill opponents say would allow for discrimination against the LGBT community.

Sixteen Democrats joined a majority of Republicans in approving the bill, which now heads to the Senate.

Supporters of the West Virginia Religious Freedom Restoration Act (HB 4012) argue that it’s needed to protect the free exercise of religion

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How the Decline of Southern White Evangelicals Fuels the Passage of ‘Religious Freedom’ Laws

(Map from Gallup)

Southern states still rate among the highest in the country for church attendance, as the map shows. But recent surveys suggest that once-dominant white evangelicals are in decline in the South.

Chris Kromm | The American Prospect | April 21, 2015

This article originally appeared at Facing South, the website published by the Institute for Southern Studies.

Last month, Indiana sparked a national debate over so-called “religious freedom” bills, a controversy that soon flared up in other states across the South and country.

A similar bill stalled in the Georgia House amidst the backlash. In Arkansas, Governor Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, signed that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act only after substantial revisions, although civil rights advocates say it still doesn’t go far enough. North Carolina’s Governor Pat McCrory, who is also a Republican, said he won’t support his state’s proposed RFRA bill, which scholars and activists say would allow for a wider range of discriminatory practices based in religion.

As many quickly pointed out, these measures aren’t new: A federal “religious freedom” act passed in 1993. After the Supreme Court ruled in 1997 that it couldn’t be enforced at the state level, states moved to pass their own versions, with momentum building in the wake of court decisions legalizing same-sex marriage.

The newest batch of RFRA laws go further than their predecessors. As ThinkProgress and others have noted, while the federal and early state RFRA laws focused on blocking state actions that supposedly put a “substantial burden” on religious beliefs, measures like the one passed in Indiana are rare in extending the law’s purview to disputes between private parties, such as a business and a customer.

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Anti-LGBT Legislation in Nevada Threatens Jobs, Economy and Minorities

Stephen Peters | HRC Blog | March 19, 2015

Today, HRC sounded the alarm on anti-LGBT legislation in Nevada – SB272 in the Senate and AB277 in the Assembly – that threatens jobs, the state economy, and undermines the state’s civil rights laws. The legislation would allow people to use their religion to challenge or opt out of various laws, including state and local laws, that protect LGBT people and other minorities from discrimination.

“This legislation undermines the enforcement of state non-discrimination protections and will expose Nevada business owners to a wave of lawsuits,” said HRC National Field Director Marty Rouse. “It has the potential to cause serious harm to the business climate in the state, putting jobs at risk, and making major corporations think twice about investing in the state. To put it simply, this legislation threatens Nevada’s strong pro-business reputation.”

The legislation will bring harmful and unintended consequences to those who call Nevada home, inviting costly legal challenges and making the Silver State unwelcoming to both residents and visitors. Nearly 500,000 jobs and 29% of the state’s employment is a direct result of tourism to Nevada. Jeopardizing the state’s standing as one of the greatest places for people to live and visit, the harm this bill may cause doesn’t end with the LGBT community: an evangelical police officer could feel empowered to refuse to patrol a Jewish street festival; a city clerk could shirk the law and refuse a marriage license to an interracial couple, a divorcee seeking to remarry, or a lesbian couple; an EMT could claim the law is on his side after refusing service to a dying transgender person in the street; and the enforcement of other key sections of state civil rights law could be dramatically undermined.

Major corporations have spoken out strongly against similar bills in other states. In response to one such anti-LGBT bill threatening economic growth and business in Arkansas, both Apple and Wal-Mart spoke out in opposition to precisely this kind of legislation. And Wal-Mart and Apple are not alone. Last year, major multinational corporations including American Airlines, Marriott, PetSmart and many other companies came out against a similar bill in Arizona, concerned about how it would hurt their business and risk millions in economic activity if it became law.

The bill puts all state non-discrimination laws at risk of being undermined. It threatens not just the LGBT community, but women, members of minority faiths and other minority classes.

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WATCH: Indiana GOP leader admits ‘No Gays Allowed’ sign would be legal in most of the state

 | Raw Story | March 29, 2015

Republican leader in Indiana admitted Monday that discriminating against LGBT people was legal in most of the state — but not because of a new “religious freedom” law.

Facing a growing backlash, Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and House Speaker Brian Bosma (R-Indianapolis) held a press conference to discuss the state’s new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The GOP leaders said they planned to clarify that the new law doesn’t allow businesses and individuals to deny service to LGBT people on religious grounds.

But during the press conference, a reporter noted that Indiana does not have a state law that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

“You guys have said repeatedly that we shouldn’t be able to discriminate against anyone, but if you just ignore the existence of this law, can’t we already do that now? Can’t so-and-so in Richmond put a sign up and say ‘No Gays Allowed?’” she asked. “That’s not against the law, correct?”

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Bill Allows Ministers to Refuse Gay Marriages

Associated Press | South Florida Gay News | February 4, 2015

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) – A bill that would allow Oklahoma ministers to be immune from civil liability for refusing to officiate a same-sex marriage has cleared a House committee.

The bill by Broken Arrow Republican Rep. David Brumbaugh passed the House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday with a 7-2 vote. It now heads to the full House for consideration.

The bill states licensed ministers shall be immune from any civil claim based on their refusal to recognize any marriage that violates the minister’s “conscience or religious beliefs.”

The measure is one of several that has been targeted by gay rights groups as discriminatory against the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

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