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Legally Brief: The Rule of Law Wins this Week

by ICADV Legal Counsel Kerry Hyatt Bennett

 This was a great week (and a proud week) to be a lawyer, in my opinion.  Two landmark and pivotal decisions by the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) reinforced that the Rule of Law is alive and well.

The first decision was issued in the combined cases Bostock v. Clayton CountyAltitude Express v. Zarda, and R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. Finally settling the long-standing legal dispute as to whether Title VII of the Civil Rights Act protects gay and transgender workers, the Court ruled unequivocally that itDOES. In a majority opinion written by Justice Neil Gorsuch, the message was clear:

“Today, we must decide whether an employer can fire someone simply for being homosexual or transgender…The answer is clear. 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”.

The second opinion this week overturned President Trump’s decision to phase out the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals), a program established during the Obama administration which defers deportation, and grants work permits for immigrants brought illegally to this country as children.

Representing the majority of the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts said the decision to rescind the program was “arbitrary and capricious”, and while it did not rule on the constitutionality of the program itself, it did stress that the DHS failed to provide a reasonable explanation for the program’s sudden rescission, which was a clear violation of the Administrative Procedures Act.

Legal happy dance.

Let’s be clear: this matters in our work against violence. When the US Supreme Court recognizes and works to change systemic inequities and when it sets a legal precedent that governmental power cannot be wielded unchecked, this is a message to the systems we work with every day.   

For more information on these cases or to discuss in-depth, contact ICADV Legal Counsel Kerry Hyatt Bennett.

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