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U.S. Federal Courts

Trump-appointed judge could ban abortion pills nationwide

Matthew Kacsmaryk has called homosexuality ‘disordered’

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The U.S. Senate confirmed anti-LGBTQ judicial nominee Matthew Kacsmaryk as a federal judge in Texas. (Screen capture via YouTube)

Anti-LGBTQ Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas is expected to soon rule on a consequential case that could outlaw the use of medication for abortions.

A decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. U.S. Food and Drug Administration is expected by the end of this month.

More than half of all abortions in the U.S. are performed with medications, usually mifepristone in combination with misoprostol, up until the 10th week of pregnancy.

The plaintiffs — represented by the anti-LGBTQ Alliance Defending Freedom, which has been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center — contend that the FDA overextended its authority by approving mifepristone more than 20 years ago.

The lawsuit is “unprecedented,” the Biden administration has said. The American Civil Liberties Union agreed, writing that “in any rational universe” it would be “laughed out of court on multiple grounds.”

According to the ACLU, “Mifepristone was approved more than two decades ago and has been used by millions of people for early abortion care and to treat miscarriages. Study after study has confirmed its safety and efficacy, and its critical role in abortion and miscarriage care. The claims in this case have no basis in law and distort decades of scientific evidence.”

At the same time, a ruling in favor of the plaintiffs would align with a series of controversial decisions by Kacsmaryk since his appointment to the bench by former President Donald Trump in 2019.

Previously, Kacsmaryk worked as an attorney for the Christian conservative legal group First Liberty Institute, including on cases whose purpose was to “defend unborn human life.”

His confirmation to the judiciary faced opposition from Senate Democrats, who cited his work fighting against nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ Americans in housing, employment and healthcare.

Kacsmaryk also faced criticism for past statements in which he said homosexuality is “disordered” and that transgender people are suffering a “delusion” or “mental disorder.”

The ACLU writes, “since his appointment to the bench, [Kacsmaryk] has issued a series of radical decisions on everything from immigrants’ rights to trans justice to birth control,” saying it was “an ‘open question’ whether politicians could make it a crime to use contraception.”

The constitutional right to birth control was established 65 years ago by the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Griswold v. Connecticut.

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U.S. Federal Courts

Federal court blocks Title IX transgender protections

Ruling applies to Idaho, La., Miss., and Mont.

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(Bigstock photo)

BY GREG LAROSE | A federal judge has temporarily halted enforcement of new rules from the Biden administration that would prevent discrimination based on gender identity and sexual orientation.

U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty of Louisiana issued a temporary injunction Thursday that blocks updated Title IX policy from taking effect Aug. 1 in Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Montana. 

In April, the U.S. Department of Education announced it would expand Title IX to protect LGBTQ students, and the four aforementioned states challenged the policy in federal court.

Doughty said in his order that Title IX, the 52-year-old civil rights law that prohibits sex-based discrimination, only applies to biological women. The judge also called out the Biden administration for overstepping its authority. 

“This case demonstrates the abuse of power by executive federal agencies in the rule-making process,” Doughty wrote. “The separation of powers and system of checks and balances exist in this country for a reason.”

The order from Doughty, a federal court appointee of President Donald Trump, keeps the updated Title IX regulations from taking effect until the court case is resolved or a higher court throws out the order.

Opponents of the Title IX rule changes have said conflating gender identity with sex would undermine protections in federal law and ultimately harm biological women. Gender identity refers to the gender an individual identifies as, which might differ from the sex they were assigned at birth.

Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill, who filed the suit in the state’s Western District federal court, had called the new regulations “dangerous and unlawful.” In a statement Thursday evening, she said the rules would have placed an unfair burden on every school, college and university in the country.

“This (is) a victory for women and girls,” Murrill said in the statement. “When Joe Biden forced his illegal and radical gender ideology on America, Louisiana said NO! Along with Idaho, Mississippi, and Montana, states are fighting back in defense of the law, the safety and prosperity of women and girls, and basic American values.”

Title IX is considered a landmark policy that provided for equal access for women in educational settings and has been applied to academic and athletic pursuits. 

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Doughty’s order comes a day after a similar development in Texas, where Judge Reed O’Connor, an appointee of President George W. Bush, declared that the Biden administration exceeded its authority, the Texas Tribune reported. 

Texas filed its own lawsuit against the federal government to block enforcement of the new rules, which Gov. Greg Abbott had instructed schools to ignore. Texas is one of several states to approve laws that prohibit transgender student-athletes from participating on sports teams that align with their gender identity.

Attorney generals in 26 states have originated or joined federal lawsuits to stop the new Title IX regulations from taking effect. 

Earlier Thursday, Republicans in Congress moved ahead with their effort to undo the revised Biden Title IX policy. Nearly 70 GOP lawmakers have signed onto legislation to reverse the education department’s final rule through the Congressional Review Act, which Congress can use to overturn certain federal agency actions.

Biden is expected to veto the legislation if it advances to his desk.

“Title IX has paved the way for our girls to access new opportunities in education, scholarships and athletics. Unfortunately, (President) Joe Biden is destroying all that progress,” U.S. Rep. Mary Miller (R-Ill.), author of the legislation, said Thursday.

States Newsroom Reporter Shauneen Miranda in D.C. contributed to this report.

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Greg LaRose

Greg LaRose has covered news for more than 30 years in Louisiana. Before coming to the Louisiana Illuminator, he was the chief investigative reporter for WDSU-TV in New Orleans. He previously led the government and politics team for The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com, and was editor in chief at New Orleans CityBusiness. Greg’s other career stops include Tiger Rag, South Baton Rouge Journal, the Covington News Banner, Louisiana Radio Network and multiple radio stations.

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The preceding article was previously published by the Louisiana Illuminator and is republished with permission.

The Louisiana Illuminator is an independent, nonprofit, nonpartisan news organization with a mission to cast light on how decisions in Baton Rouge are made and how they affect the lives of everyday Louisianians. Our in-depth investigations and news stories, news briefs and commentary help residents make sense of how state policies help or hurt them and their neighbors statewide.

We’re part of States Newsroom, the nation’s largest state-focused nonprofit news organization.

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U.S. Federal Courts

4th Circuit rules Montgomery County parents cannot opt children out of LGBTQ-specific lessons

Lawsuit filed in May 2023

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(Bigstock photo)

A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled a group of Montgomery County parents cannot “opt out” their children from classes in which lessons or books on LGBTQ-related topics are taught.

The parents filed their lawsuit in May 2023.

An American Civil Liberties Union press release notes the lawsuit challenges Montgomery County Public Schools’ policy that “mandates the inclusion of literature with LGBTQ+ characters as part of the ELA (English and Language Arts) curriculum, aiming to promote understanding and acceptance among students.” 

“Although the district originally allowed parents to opt their children out of some ELA lessons, it rescinded the opt-out policy because the number of requests grew too difficult to manage, student absenteeism soared, and it created a stigmatizing environment for students who are LGBTQ or have LGBTQ family members, undermining the purpose of the inclusivity requirement,” said the ACLU.

U.S. District Judge Deborah L. Boardman of the U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland ruled against the parents. The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., upheld the decision.

“We’re talking about books like ‘Pride Puppy,’ which is light-hearted and affirming,” said ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah Jeon in a press release. “During a time of intensifying calls to ban books and limit access to information about LGBTQ+ people and identities, this ruling in support of inclusion in education matters.”

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U.S. Federal Courts

Melissa DuBose becomes first Black and first LGBTQ judge on federal court in R.I.

Senators also advance Nicole Berner’s nomination

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Judge Melissa R. DuBose (Screen capture: Roger Williams University School of Law/YouTube)

Judge Melissa DuBose was confirmed by the U.S. Senate on Tuesday for her appointment by President Joe Biden to the U.S. District Court for the District of Rhode Island, where she will be the first Black and the first LGBTQ judge to serve on the bench.

DuBose thanked her partner Amy “for blessing me with over two decades of unwavering love, support, laughter and patience,” and their “two remarkable sons … for gracing me with that special love that is reserved for mothers and sons.” 

The vote was 51-47, with only two Republicans supporting her nomination, Susan Collins of Maine and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.

During a confirmation hearing in February, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy (R-La.) grilled DuBose about an article 24 years ago in which she was quoted as saying she had gone through “a Marxist phase.”

Currently serving as associate judge on the Rhode Island District Court in Providence, DuBose’s nomination was enthusiastically supported by her state’s two Democratic U.S. senators., Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse.

“She’s proven to be an exceptional jurist with a stellar record,” said the former on the Senate floor, adding, “She has dedicated her life to public service, and Rhode Island is fortunate that she has once again answered the call.”

Whitehouse said, “This is a person, a lifelong Rhode Islander, who is exceedingly well regarded in our community.”

Nicole Berner’s nomination advances

Another lesbian judge nominated by Biden to serve a lifetime tenure on the federal bench is Nicole Berner, who has long served as general counsel of the Service Employees International Union and was tapped to join the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Senate moved for a cloture vote on her nomination Thursday, meaning a final vote is expected as early as next week. She would be the first LGBTQ judge on the circuit court and the 11th confirmed LGBTQ judge nominated by Biden — tying with the record number who were appointed by former President Barack Obama over two terms in office.

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