Civil rights are on the docket for the upcoming Supreme Court term that starts Monday, October 7.
Last term, the justices avoided taking big cases with questions like these, but now they’re loading up on cases that will impact millions of Americans.
This term, the justices will hear cases that concern LGBTQ rights, abortion, gun control, Native American rights and DREAMERs, among other cases.
And the results for all of these cases will drop in June, in the middle of the 2020 general election.
Here are three of the cases that could have wide-reaching implications for Americans’ civil rights.
First up is a trio of cases that ask whether gay and transgender people are protected under federal anti-discrimination laws.
The question is if sexual orientation and gender identity count as a form of sex discrimination under the Civil Rights Act.
On October 8, hearings begin for Altitude Express v. Zarda, Bostock v. Clayton County, Georgia and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.
Though the cases deal with a similar question, there’s a distinction. Two cases concern men who claim they were fired for being gay, and those cases ask whether Title VII’s language that prohibits employment discrimination because of sex (and other qualities) applies.
The third case deals with a transgender woman who was fired after telling her employers she intended to transition from male to female. This case addresses whether Title VII prohibits discrimination based on sex stereotyping and whether someone is transgender.
Just Friday, the Court announced it would review an abortion law in Louisiana that would leave the state with a single abortion provider.
The law requires doctors to have admitting privileges at hospitals, which many abortion rights’ groups argue poses an “undue burden” on a woman’s access to the procedure.
When the justices hear the case, they’ll be addressing that question.
Other reports have pointed out the case is similar to one the Supreme Court decided in 2016. Then, the justices struck down the Texas law, and they could uphold the precedent they set then.
But with two new justices, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, that path is less certain. Both Gorsuch and Kavanaugh had strong support from anti-abortion groups.
The Court could also decide the 2014 Louisiana law is somehow different from the Texas law and make a distinction between the two.
Alexis McGill Johnson, the acting president of Planned Parenthood, released a statement saying:
“Access to abortion is hanging by a thread in this country, and this case is what could snap that thread. Three years ago, the Supreme Court decided that laws like this one in Louisiana had no purpose other than to make abortion more difficult to access … This is what we’ve warned about — the Trump administration and anti-abortion state politicians will not stop until they have gutted our rights and our freedoms.”
The Future of Gun Control
In December, the justices are scheduled to hear a case that addresses regulations on the right to bear arms.
New York City has a rule banning people from transporting licensed, locked and unloaded handguns outside of city limits. The question the justices will have to answer is whether the rule violates the Second Amendment, the Commerce Clause or the constitutional right to travel.
Lower courts found the rule was a regulation, not a restriction on a person’s right to posses a firearm, and therefore doesn’t violate any of the above rights.
This will be the first time the Supreme Court hears a case about the Second Amendment in almost ten years.
But whether it hears the case is less certain.
To avoid the possibility of triggering a ruling that would negatively impact potential gun control measures, New York City repealed the rule.
The Consequences of a Conservative Court
With a conservative majority on the Supreme Court, questions about civil rights laws that were thought to be settled have come up again.
This term will test whether activists were right to worry during the confirmation processes for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch, and the rulings could seriously impact the rights of millions of Americans.
But it could also bring politically volatile rulings in the middle of the presidential campaign, underlining to party activists and voters the stakes of the 2020 contest.
by Nikoel Hytrek
Photo via Wikipedia