Tuesday, June 27, 2017

A Good Court Decision (And A Potentially Bad One)

(Photo of the U.S. Supreme Court by Alex Wong / Getty Images is from NBC News.)

The United States Supreme Court struck another blow for equality in it's decision striking down an Arkansas law yesterday. The state law had denied lesbian couples to have both of their names on their baby's birth certificate. The state law had said that only the actual mother would have her name on the certificate -- since the certificate was to show actual parentage.

The problem with the law was that married heterosexual couples had both the parent's name on a baby's birth certificate (even if the father was not the birth father of the baby). This meant Arkansas was treating same-sex couples differently than they were treating opposite-sex couples. The Supreme Court said that violated the Constitution, and that all married couples must be treated the same under the law.

That was a victory for equality in this country, and one unlikely to be overturned in the future since it was a 6 to 3 decision (with only Gorsuch, Thomas, and Alito disagreeing with the decision).

But the Court also created the possibility of a decision upholding discrimination against the LGBT community in the future. They agreed to hear a case in their next term to determine whether a business can refuse service to same-sex couples on religious grounds. The case concerns a Denver baker who refused to make or sell cakes for same-sex couples. He claimed it violated both his religious freedom and his artistic freedom.

Lower courts had ruled he cannot discriminate against same-sex couples, even in the name of religion, since he was operating a business open to the public. How will the Supreme Court rule? It could go either way on this divided court. We know that three justices (Gorsuch, Thomas, Alito) think it's just fine to discriminate against the LGBT community (as long as the discrimination is disguised as religion). The deciding votes will come from Kennedy and Roberts, and it's anyone's guess as to how they will vote.

Both of these are important cases, since same-sex marriages are on the rise in the United States. The bottom chart shows that. It is from a recent Gallup Poll -- done between June 20th (2016) and June 19th (2017) of a random national sample of 352,851 adults (including 12,832 members of the LGBT community), with a margin of error of only 1 point.

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