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The Supreme Court is leaving in place a lower court ruling that a federal employment discrimination law doesn't protect a person against discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

The court on Monday declined to take up the question of whether a law that bars workplace discrimination "because of...sex" covers discrimination against someone because of their sexual orientation.

President Barack Obama's Equal Employment Opportunity Commission took the view that it does. But President Donald Trump's administration has argued that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on gender but doesn't cover sexual orientation. Federal appeals courts are split on the issue. That means the issue is likely to come to the court again.

The case the Supreme Court declined to take involved Jameka Evans, a gay woman who worked as a hospital security officer in Georgia. Lower courts said she couldn't use Title VII to sue for discrimination.

The Supreme Court didn't explain why it was declining to hear the case. But the hospital where Evans worked, Georgia Regional Hospital, told the court there were technical legal problems with the case.



A federal appeals court is being asked to decide if Baltimore's prosecutor is immune from a lawsuit by five officers who claim she maliciously prosecuted them in the death of a black man fatally injured in police custody.

Freddie Gray's death from a spinal injury in 2015 prompted days of protests and rioting in Baltimore. State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby charged six officers in Gray's arrest and death. Three were acquitted and Mosby dropped the remaining cases.

Five of the six officers sued Mosby. They contend she acted as an investigator, instead of a prosecutor, and isn't immune from being sued.
The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals will hear arguments Wednesday in Mosby's bid to overturn a decision from a judge, who ruled parts of the lawsuit could continue.


The upcoming Supreme Court argument about a baker who refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple makes some civil rights lawyers think of South Carolina's Piggie Park barbecue.

When two African-Americans parked their car at a Piggie Park drive-in in August 1964 in Columbia, South Carolina, the waitress who came out to serve them turned back once she saw they were black and didn't take their order.

In the civil rights lawsuit that followed, Piggie Park owner Maurice Bessinger justified the refusal to serve black customers based on his religious belief opposing "any integration of the races whatsoever."

Federal judges had little trouble dismissing Bessinger's claim.

"Undoubtedly defendant Bessinger has a constitutional right to espouse the religious beliefs of his own choosing, however, he does not have the absolute right to exercise and practice such beliefs in utter disregard of the clear constitutional rights of other citizens," U.S. District Judge Charles Earl Simons Jr. wrote in 1966.

By the time the Supreme Court heard the case in 1968, the issue was the award of fees to the lawyers representing the black South Carolinians who sued Bessinger's restaurants. But in a footnote to its unsigned 8-0 opinion, the court called the religious freedom argument and Bessinger's other defenses "patently frivolous."

Fifty years later, civil rights lawyers are pointing the Supreme Court to Bessinger's case in support of Charlie Craig and David Mullins, the gay couple who were turned away by Colorado baker Jack Phillips, giving rise to the high court case that will be argued Tuesday.

"The logic of Piggie Park and other precedents overwhelmingly rejecting religious justifications for racial discrimination apply squarely to the context of LGBTQ discrimination," the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund said in a Supreme Court brief. The fund also represented the people who sued Piggie Park.

Both cases involve laws intended to prevent discrimination by private businesses that open their doors to the public. In the case of Piggie Park, the law was the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The bake shop case involves the Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act, which prohibits businesses from refusing to sell their goods to people on the basis of sexual orientation among other things.

As the case has come to the justices, the focus is on Phillips' speech rights, not his religious beliefs. As a cake artist, he claims a right not to say something with which he disagrees.


The Supreme Court on Monday rejected hearing a case that challenges the use of Confederate imagery in the Mississippi state flag.

Carlos Moore, an African-American attorney from Mississippi, argued that the flag represents "an official endorsement of white supremacy."

"The message in Mississippi's flag has always been one of racial hostility and insult and it is pervasive and unavoidable by both children and adults," Moore said in his court appeal.

"The state's continued expression of its message of racial disparagement sends a message to African-American citizens of Mississippi that they are second-class citizens."

The justices did not comment on their decision to decline Moore's appeal to have the flag ruled as an unconstitutional symbol of slavery, The Associated Press reported.

"We always knew it was a long shot," Moore told the news wire.

After a lower court rejected the lawsuit for lack of standing in April, Moore appealed the case to the Supreme Court on the grounds that the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit had given the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause too narrow of an interpretation.



An upcoming ruling by California's highest court in a legal battle between the union launched by labor leader Cesar Chavez and one of the nation's largest fruit farms could dramatically reduce the power of organized farm labor in the state.

The California Supreme Court was expected to decide Monday whether a law allowing the state to order unions and farming companies to reach binding contracts is unconstitutional.

Labor activists say the mandatory mediation and conciliation law is key to helping farm workers improve labor conditions.

Opponents say it's government overreach that deprives agricultural employers and workers of a say over wages and other terms of employment.

The state Supreme Court's ruling will come in a lawsuit pitting Gerawan Farming, which hires thousands of workers for its nectarine, peach and plum farms, against the United Farm Workers of America.

The 2002 state law at issue allows the California Agricultural Labor Relations Board to order mediation to achieve a labor contract for farm workers and gives mediators the authority to set the terms of the agreement.

Unions can seek mediation 90 days after demanding to bargain on behalf of workers — even if the vote to unionize occurred decades earlier in some cases.

"The argument when it was enacted was that workers would get all fired up about having a union to represent them and they would vote for the union but then the employer would delay and the workers would lose their enthusiasm," said Philip Martin, a farm labor expert at the University of California, Davis.

In court documents filed with the state Supreme Court, the UFW says a previous law had failed to achieve the state's goal of providing millions of farm workers with the right to bargain collectively with employers.

As of 2002, less than half of farm employers whose workers voted to join a union since 1975 had agreed to a labor contract, according to the UFW.



An appeals court in Chicago says a lower court in Indiana was right to refuse to permit a couple to rescind their guilty pleas in a tax case on grounds their prosecution caused them severe stress.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said stress was common to anyone facing prosecution and wasn't sufficient reason to take back pleas. It added that neither George nor Barbara Gasich could claim they were under some "Napoleonic delusions" when they chose to plead guilty.

The Chicago Daily Law Bulletin reports the Gasiches were indicted in 2014 for making fraudulent claims. Prosecutors said they'd asked for $475,000 in refunds when they owed the IRS far more than that.

The Gasiches were formerly from St. John, Indiana, but lived in Florida when they were arrested.


To get the Supreme Court's attention these days, try saying your speech rights are being violated.

Whether the underlying topic is abortion, elections, labor unions or wedding cakes, the First Amendment is starting to dominate the Supreme Court's agenda.

The court on Monday granted three new speech cases, including a challenge to a California law that requires licensed pregnancy-counseling clinics to tell patients they might be eligible for free or discounted abortions. The nine-month term now features six cases, out of 44 total, that turn on the reach of the Constitution's free speech guarantee.

Several will be among the term's most closely watched. They include a high-profile fight over a Colorado baker who refuses to make cakes for same-sex weddings and a challenge to the requirement in some states that public-sector workers pay for the cost of union representation. Both of those cases offer the prospect of ideological divides that could put the court's five Republican appointees in the majority, backing free speech rights.

Free speech also plays a central role in what could be a watershed case involving partisan voting districts. The court's liberals could join with Justice Anthony Kennedy to allow legal challenges to partisan gerrymanders for the first time. During arguments in October, Kennedy suggested those challenges would be based on the First Amendment's protections for speech and free association.

The free speech clause has had a special resonance with the court's conservative wing under Chief Justice John Roberts. The court invoked the First Amendment in the landmark 2010 Citizens United decision, which said corporations could spend unlimited sums on political causes. Writing for the five-justice majority, Kennedy equated federal spending restrictions with using "censorship to control thought."

The court has also backed speech rights with more lopsided majorities in cases involving violent video games, depictions of animal cruelty, abortion-clinic buffer zones and anti-homosexual protesters.


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