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  Civil Rights - Legal News


India's Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a colonial-era law that made gay sex punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a landmark victory for gay rights that one judge said would "pave the way for a better future."

The 1861 law, a relic of Victorian England that hung on long after the end of British colonialism, was a weapon used to discriminate against India's gay community, the judges ruled in a unanimous decision.

"Constitutional morality cannot be martyred at the altar of social morality," Chief Justice Dipak Misra said, reading the verdict. "Social morality cannot be used to violate the fundamental rights of even a single individual."

As the news spread, the streets outside the courthouse erupted in cheers as opponents of the law danced and waved flags.

"We feel as equal citizens now," said activist Shashi Bhushan. "What happens in our bedroom is left to us."

In its ruling, the court said sexual orientation was a "biological phenomenon" and that discrimination on that basis violated fundamental rights.

"We cannot change history but can pave a way for a better future," said Justice D.Y. Chandrachud.

The law known as Section 377 held that intercourse between members of the same sex was against the order of nature. The five petitioners who challenged the law said it was discriminatory and led to gays living in fear of harassment and persecution.

Jessica Stern, the executive director of the New York-based rights group OutRight Action International, said the original law had reverberated far beyond India, including in countries where gay people still struggle for acceptance.

"The sodomy law that became the model everywhere, from Uganda to Singapore to the U.K. itself, premiered in India, becoming the confusing and dehumanizing standard replicated around the world," she said in a statement, saying "today's historic outcome will reverberate across India and the world."

The court's ruling struck down the law's sections on consensual gay sex, but let stand segments that deal with such issues as bestiality.

UConn football nepotism case heads to court

  Civil Rights  -   POSTED: 2018/09/02 23:34

A Connecticut Superior Court judge is set to hear arguments about whether UConn football coach Randy Edsall should be allowed to retain his son as an assistant coach with the team.

Edsall is appealing a ruling by the state's ethics office that the school violated Connecticut's ban on nepotism by hiring Corey Edsall in 2017 as the school's tight ends coach.

That ruling led a lawmaker to include paragraph on an unrelated piece of legislation this year to allow immediate family members to work in the same "constituent unit" of the state system for higher education with certain conditions.

Both sides are scheduled to present oral arguments on Wednesday before Judge Joseph Shortall in New Britain Superior Court on a motion to dismiss the case.



Chicago is asking a federal judge to block President Donald Trump's administration from following through on its threat to withhold public safety grants to so-called sanctuary cities.

Attorneys for the city will be in court Monday to argue their case. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has said Chicago won't "be blackmailed" into changing its values as a city welcoming of immigrants.

Trump's policy stands to withhold public safety grants unless cities agree to tougher enforcement of immigrations laws. Chicago is among several cities refusing to cooperate.

Chicago sued the U.S. Department of Justice last month, arguing the new federal requirements are unconstitutional.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that Chicago would forfeit its rights to the federal funds if it insists on violating the "rule of law."



It would violate people's privacy to publicly release raw data collected by automated license plate readers that police use to determine whether vehicles are linked to crime, but there may be ways to make the information anonymous that would require it to be disclosed, the California Supreme Court said Thursday.

The ruling came in a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation that sought a week's worth of license plate data — millions of records — from the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and Los Angeles Police Department to "understand and educate the public on the risks to privacy posed" by license plate readers in the area.

A unanimous Supreme Court ordered a lower court to consider methods to make the data anonymous and determine whether any of those efforts would require its release.

Jennifer Lehman, assistant county counsel for Los Angeles County, said in a statement that the county was "concerned that even making the information anonymous could pose unique and unintended problems."

She said it would raise those concerns in detail when the case is heard again by the lower court.

A message to the Los Angeles city attorney was not immediately returned.

Law enforcement agencies nationwide are using license plate readers attached to patrol cars and objects such as traffic signals. The devices indiscriminately capture images of license plates that come into view. The information is passed through databases to instantly check whether the car or driver has been linked to crime.

Officials say the scans are useful in tracking stolen vehicles, missing children and people wanted by police. For instance, authorities chasing a suspect in a fatal shooting at Delta State University in Mississippi in 2015 used an automatic license plate reader to track the man as he traveled across state lines.

Privacy advocates say the systems overwhelmingly capture innocent drivers, recording information about their locations that could be used to track their habits and whereabouts.



People in same-sex relationships in South Carolina should get the same legal protections against domestic violence as heterosexual couples, the state's highest court ruled Wednesday, deeming a portion of the state's domestic violence law unconstitutional.

The court was asked to weigh in after a woman tried to get a protective order against her former fiancée, also a woman, and was denied.

Current law defines "household members" as a spouse, former spouse, people with a child in common, or men and women who are or have lived together. It does not include unmarried same-sex couples.

Acting Justice Costa Pleicones, who wrote the majority opinion, said during oral arguments in March 2016 that he felt the law was "pretty clearly unconstitutional in its discriminatory impact upon same-sex couples."

In his opinion, Pleicones pointed out lawmakers have over the years addressed the definition of "household members" as covered under domestic violence protections in 1994, amending the language from "persons" living together to "male and female." In 2015, during a massive overhaul of South Carolina's criminal domestic violence law, legislators made changes including increasing penalties for offenders but left the gender-based definition intact.

The U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause, the court wrote, states, "No state shall ... deny any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws," such as a benefit offered to one class of person but not others.

"In this case, we cannot find a reasonable basis for providing protection to one set of domestic violence victims - unmarried, cohabiting or formerly cohabiting, opposite-sex couples - while denying it to others," the court wrote.

Other states have addressed this issue since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2015 decision legalizing gay marriage nationwide. The Ohio Supreme Court in 2016 adopted the use of gender-neutral references in family court cases. California and Massachusetts proactively changed language in their laws.


Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein is taking her bid for a statewide recount of Pennsylvania's Nov. 8 presidential election to federal court.

After announcing Stein and recount supporters were dropping their case in state court, lawyer Jonathan Abady said they will seek an emergency federal court order Monday.

"Make no mistake — the Stein campaign will continue to fight for a statewide recount in Pennsylvania," Abady said in a statement Saturday night. "We are committed to this fight to protect the civil and voting rights of all Americans."

He said barriers to a recount in Pennsylvania are pervasive and the state court system is ill-equipped to address the problem.

Stein has spearheaded a recount effort in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin, three states with a history of backing Democrats for president that were narrowly and unexpectedly won by Republican Donald Trump over Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Stein has framed the campaign as an effort to explore whether voting machines and systems had been hacked and the election result manipulated. Stein's lawyers, however, have offered no evidence of hacking in Pennsylvania's election, and the state Republican Party and Trump had asked the court to dismiss the state court case.




A suburban Denver baker who refused to make a wedding cake for a gay couple will argue in court Tuesday that his religious beliefs should protect him from sanctions against his business.

The case underscores how the already simmering tension between religious-freedom advocates and gay-rights supporters is likely to become more heated in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court's landmark ruling last month legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide.

"What the relationship is between that reality and sort of what that will mean for things like service provisions is where I think the battles will really be fought now," said Melissa Hart, a law professor at the University of Colorado.

The 2012 case before the Colorado Court of Appeals has ignited a passionate debate over whether individuals can cite their beliefs as a basis for declining to participate in a same-sex wedding ceremony or if such refusals on religious grounds can lead to discrimination allegations.

Gay couples have won battles in other states.

Last week, the owners of a Portland, Oregon-area bakery that declined to make a wedding cake for a gay couple two years ago were ordered to pay $135,000 in damages. Two years ago, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that a photographer who wouldn't take pictures of a gay couple's 2006 commitment ceremony violated the state's discrimination law.


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