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The Shifting Supremes

- In two recent decisions issued by the U.S. Supreme Court, two right leaning Justices opted for the left side of history. Chief Justice John Roberts tipped the scales of justice in Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California. The oddly parsed 5-4 decision setback efforts to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. Known as DACA, the 2012 Obama era program protects people brought to the United States as children by shielding them from deportation and letting them work. Rather than lean on substance and “decide whether DACA or its rescission are sound policies,” the majority of the Court relied on procedural grounds when concluding that the “decision to rescind DACA was arbitrary and capricious” and “must be vacated”. The decision protects about 700,000 young immigrants, known as “Dreamers”, from deportation. However, their immigration status will remain in limbo because DACA only provides a renewable two-year deferral of possible deportation, with no pathway to citizenship. The pathway to civil rights protection became clearer for the LGBTQ community in Bostock v. Clayton County. In the 6-3 opinion, the Court ruled that gay and transgender employees are protected from workplace discrimination by Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Before the decision, it was legal in more than half of the U.S.A. to fire workers for being gay, bisexual, or transgender. Conservative leaning Justice, Neil M. Gorsuch, wrote the opinion, “An employer who fires an individual merely for being gay or transgender defies the law.” Even though both decisions were viewed as major losses for the Trump administration, it is possible that the DACA case will return to the Court after the administration attempts to fix the procedural defects. LGBTQ advocates will also attempt to return to the Court and address a Department of Health and Human Services administrative rule that rolled back health care discrimination protections. Whether Chief Justice Roberts and Justice Gorsuch will continue issuing left leaning decisions remains to be determined. Challenges to the power of congressional subpoenas, restrictions on abortion providers, and whether Congress may receive President Trump’s tax returns are just a few of the decisions that remain to be published before the Court’s session closes at the end of June. Time will tell whether the ideological profiles of the Court are shifting. The DACA decision, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/591/18-587, and LGBTQ decision, https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/590/17-1618 are available for download.

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