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Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as first Black woman Supreme Court justice

Roe v. Wade struck down last Friday

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(Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

Ketanji Brown Jackson was sworn in Thursday as the newest member of the U.S. Supreme Court, representing a welcome change on the bench for progressives who are still outraged after the decision last week overturning the right to abortion found in Roe v. Wade.

Jackson, who’s now the first Black woman to serve on the high court, has replaced Justice Stephen Breyer, a Clinton appointee who is retiring upon the end of the Supreme Court’s term. Breyer announced his forthcoming departure months ago as progressives urged him to stop to ensure a replacement appointed a Democratic president and confirmed by a Democratic Senate.

The briefing swearing-in was conducted by Chief Justice John Roberts, who administered the oath of office for Brown before a small gathering of Jackson’s family, including her two daughters, according to a report in the New York Times.

GLAAD CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said in a statement the beginning of Jackson’s tenure on the Supreme Court “will bring long-needed representation to the Supreme Court at a critical juncture in our nation’s history, and after the court’s disastrous term dismantling personal liberty.”

“It bears repeating the obvious that women, people of color and LGBTQ people are Americans deserving of equal protection under law,” Ellis said. “Justice Jackson will be a visible and inspiring presence on a court currently dominated by extremists, reminding all that America should always be moving forward to expand freedom.”

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U.S. Supreme Court

Alito renews criticism of the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality ruling

Obergefell decision allowed same-sex couples to marry around the country

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U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito speaks at a conference in D.C. in December 2023 (YouTube screenshot)

Conservative U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito on Tuesday renewed his criticism of the landmark 2015 ruling in Obergefell v. Hodges that established the nationwide constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

His remarks came in a 5-page order that was written in connection with the High Court’s decision not to hear Missouri Department of Corrections v. Jean Finney — a dispute over whether a juror’s position that “homosexuality, according to the Bible, is a sin” can be the basis for striking him from an employment discrimination case that was brought by a lesbian.

The conflict, Alito argued, “exemplifies the danger” he foresaw in the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling, which was decided by a 5-4 majority with Alito among the justices who dissented.

Specifically, Alito raised concern in his statement that “Americans who do not hide their adherence to traditional religious beliefs about homosexual conduct will be ‘labeled as bigots and treated as such’ by the government.'”

“The opinion of the court in [Obergefell] made it clear that the decision should not be used in that way,” the justice wrote, “but I am afraid that this admonition is not being heeded by our society.”

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U.S. Supreme Court

Supreme Court declines to hear Ind. bathroom case

Transgender boy filed lawsuit against school district in 2021

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U.S. Supreme Court (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an Indiana case on whether schools can bar transgender students from using a bathroom that reflects their gender identity.

The justices in a brief order denied a request from a central Indiana school district to hear the case, which centers around a now-teenage trans boy, identified in court documents as A.C., who was barred from using the boys restrooms at his former middle school, the Hill reported.

Represented by the American Civil Liberties Union of Indiana, an adolescent trans boy and his parents filed a lawsuit against the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville in December 2021 for failing to provide him with access to bathrooms consistent with his gender in violation of his rights under Title IX, the law prohibiting sex discrimination in educational programs, as well as the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment. In an August 2023 opinion, the 7th Circuit Court of Appeals found the school district policy did likely violate the student’s rights under Title IX and equal protection.

“We’re thankful the court allowed this momentous victory for the transgender youth of Indiana to stand,” said Kenneth Falk, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana. “This case is about the fundamental right of every student to a safe and inclusive learning environment, and the policy at its core is an affront to the freedom of transgender youth to be themselves. We look forward to continuing to advocate for transgender Hoosiers and their families wherever their equality before the law is challenged.”

Chris Geidner, editor at Law Dork, reported the order protects trans students within the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals — which includes Indiana, Illinois and Wisconsin — and puts off any Supreme Court review of bathroom bans for some time, likely into 2025 or beyond.

Journalist Erin Reed noted:

“That means that many trans youth in Indiana and in several other states will be allowed to continue using the bathroom of their gender identity, as multiple circuit courts have found in favor of transgender plaintiffs. This does mean that those in the 11th Circuit states, so Florida, Alabama and Georgia, will have to wait longer for protections. But it says that the Supreme Court will not likely not take up bathrooms in coming months.”

The Supreme Court has a track record of declining cases involving trans protections. In 2021, the justices declined to review a ruling from the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals involving Gavin Grimm, a trans boy in Virginia.

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Republican AGs ask Supreme Court to hear case on school gender policy guidelines

Appeals court found parents challenging the policy lacked standing

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The Supreme Court as composed June 30, 2022 to present. Front row, left to right: Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Justice Clarence Thomas, Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., Associate Justice Samuel A. Alito, Jr., and Associate Justice Elena Kagan. Back row, left to right: Associate Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Associate Justice Neil M. Gorsuch, Associate Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, and Associate Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson. (Photo Credit: Fred Schilling, The Supreme Court of the U.S.)

A coalition of 17 Republican state attorneys general filed an amicus brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to hear a case challenging a school district’s gender policy guidelines, which allow students to use names, pronouns and restrooms or facilities consistent with their gender identity while prohibiting parental notification without the student’s consent.

The brief, led by West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey and filed on Jan. 4, opposes the decision by the 4th U.S. Court of Appeals, which found the parents challenging the guidelines did not have standing to sue the school board in Montgomery County, Md.

“This egregious policy completely sidesteps parents’ rights and severs them from having involvement in their child’s physical, emotional, mental and social well-being,” Morrisey said in a press release announcing the move.

“Any time any organization or institution seeks to hide what they do when our children are in their care, it’s a huge red flag,” he said. “Why would a school board encourage students to keep secrets from their parents?”

Advocates warn mandatory notification is effectively forced outing, which violates students’ constitutional right to privacy. The practice can also be dangerous; according to the 2015 Transgender Survey, 10 percent of trans people encounter physical violence from a family member and 15 percent are kicked out of or run away from their homes.

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