The US Supreme Court is one of the most powerful institutions in the country—many would argue, the most powerful. Earlier this summer, the Supreme Court ruled on several landmark cases concerning protections for individuals in the LGBTQ+ and immigrant communities, as well as abortion. These decisions could set a precedent for future cases, determining the legal direction of the US on similar issues.
Today, we're giving you a recap of these cases, so you know what to expect from our country's legal system going forward.
The Supreme Court Upholds DACA, Extending Protections for Children of Immigrants
In 2012, President Barack Obama announced an executive branch memorandum called Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA).
DACA is complex, but essentially, the legislation allows immigrant children brought into the US before the age of 16 to live and work in the country for renewable two-year periods. Immigrants living under these conditions are commonly called DREAMers. The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors (DREAM) Act operates in conjunction with DACA to support immigrants as they work and live in the US.
For a significant amount of time, the Trump administration has signaled its desire to end DACA, effectively removing protections for DREAMers. In a case that recently made its way to the Supreme Court, the administration tried to do just that.
On June 19th, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled to reject President Trump's attempts to rescind DACA in a 5-4 ruling. Chief Justice John Roberts, who sided with liberal justices to decide the ruling, called the Trump administration's efforts to end DACA arbitrary and capricious.
That doesn't mean that DACA is permanently enshrined in US law, however. The Court's main issue with the Trump administration was its failure to specify a legally defensible reason for rescinding DACA. Were the administration to develop a more comprehensible basis for discontinuing the DREAM Act or DACA in the future, the Court could very well rule differently.
The ruling has huge implications for immigrant families and workers currently in the US under the DREAM Act, allowing around 650,000 DREAMers to remain and work in the country. Additionally, the ruling sets a precedent that may spill over into other areas of the law. In future cases, expect more lawyers to argue that a party has arbitrary or unjustifiable reasons to make a request, and cite this case as precedent.
The Supreme Court Rules to Expand Protections for LGBTQ+ Workers
On June 15th, 2020, the Supreme Court ruled 6-3 to extend Title VII Civil Rights Act worker protections to LGBTQ+ individuals.
Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prevents employers from discriminating against employees based on their sex. The Trump administration argued that Title VII protections failed to cover gender identity or sexual orientation, a claim that the Court struck down.
Justice Neil Gorsuch was joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and the Court's four liberal justices, overruling the other conservatives on the Court. In an opinion, Gorsuch wrote:
"An employer who fires an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex. Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids."
While the Court acknowledged that Title VII protections did not explicitly reference sexual orientation or gender identity, it ruled that the Civil Rights Act's language does indeed apply to LGBTQ+ individuals.
Over eight million workers in the US are part of the LGBTQ+ community. The Court's ruling protects those workers from discrimination, allowing them to pursue careers more easily. For families in the LGBTQ+ community, the ruling represents increased stability and equality.
The Supreme Court Rules Against Restrictive Abortion Laws in Louisiana
On June 29th, 2020, Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts once again sided with liberal justices to block a proposed Louisiana abortion law that would have made abortion harder to access in the state.
In 2014, Louisiana State Senator Katrina Jackson sponsored Louisiana Act 620, which required abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 30 miles. The law would have shut down all but one abortion provider in Louisiana. The Court's ruling was, in this case, primarily based on precedent. In 2016, the Supreme Court blocked a similar law that would have restricted access to abortion in Texas.
This ruling is not the end of the battle over abortion in the US. Like the DACA case, the Court's ruling was largely based on precedent and how the lawmakers of proposed legislation justified its existence. If a case comes up in the future that avoids the precedent set by the Texas and Louisiana cases, the Court could come to a different conclusion regarding its perceived support for pro-choice legislation.
For families and prospective mothers, especially those living in states with restrictive abortion laws, the case further establishes an important precedent. The Court continues to uphold Roe v. Wade and protect abortion, and this case only creates more of a tendency among Supreme Court justices to do just that.
While these rulings don’t have a direct impact on family law issues, the rulings inevitably may have impact on the outcomes of certain family law cases. Knowing and understanding these rulings allow our attorneys to help you make the best decisions when working with the complexities of your family law matter.
If you're having difficulty navigating a family law case, we can help. At Coker, Robb & Cannon, Family Lawyers, we work with individuals to tackle complex legal issues such as divorce, child custody, child support, property division, and more.
To arrange a consultation with an experienced family lawyer, contact us online or via phone at (940) 293-2313.