The Supreme Court announced that it will hear several controversial and highly political cases during its upcoming term. These cases include abortion rights, employment rights for LGBTQ persons, immigration rights under “DACA” (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and gun rights/gun control. In weighing the outcomes on these issues, the Supreme Court may vote along political party lines. Trump’s nominations and appointment of Justices Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh to the conservative block may determine the fate of these issues.
The justices will hear a Louisiana abortion case as the first case among the recent conservative abortion restriction cases—in the early 2020 term. Among the many recent conservative/restrictive abortion laws passed, it will be the first test abortion test case to be decided with the all new majority of Supreme Court conservative justices appointed by Trump. The Louisiana law would require that a doctor performing an abortion have admitting privileges to a hospital within 30 miles.
The Louisiana abortion law while on its face may seem harmless, however, it will drive many abortion providers out of business thereby limiting a woman’s access and right to an abortion. In a similar Texas case, the Supreme Court in 2016 ruled that a law requiring admitting privileges at local hospital created an undue burden on women and failed to offer medical benefits enough to justify the burden. The women most likely to be affected are minority women or those with limited means.
700,000 undocumented immigrants, brought to the U.S. as children, will learn if their immigration hopes and dreams for a pathway to U.S. citizenship will be dashed. The Obama administration started “DACA” without Congress approval. The Trump administration seeks an end to DACA. Federal cases wind through the lower courts and landed at the Supreme Court. As President Obama started DACA without Congressional approval, one might argue that Trump holds the same discretion to end DACA. That is the crux of the issue. DACA shows the need for immigration reform to prevent immigrants from being used as political pawns.
The LGBTQ cases involve two gay men and one transgender woman who were allegedly fired due to their sexual orientation. They argue the same protections under the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Many stated passed laws to protect the worker rights of LGBTQ persons. However, no such laws exist in 28 states. On its face, it might seem logical that firing an employer due to sexual orientation is illegal. The Supreme Court never decided the exact issue before it. It will be argued on Tuesday, October 8, 2019.
The gun rights issue involves whether New York city’s ban on transporting legally owned guns outside the home except to gun ranges inside city limits. The law has since been repealed. The justices may still decide to determine if a right to carry a firearm extends beyond the front door. The last similar case on gun rights and the Second Amendment was District of Columbia v. Heller. Heller held there is a constitutional right to keep a gun in the home for self-defense.
We live in a highly political and polarized time. While the Supreme Court should decide the cases pursuant to the law, oftentimes that is not the case. The conservative justices’ chopping block holds LGBTQ and DACA recipients in its blade. Justice Roberts could vote with the liberal justices as he has done on occasion in the past. Justice Gorsuch at times has voted as a Libertarian on issues—breaking away from his more conservative members. Justice Roberts voted in favor of the Affordable Care Act, along with the liberal justices, which allowed it to become law.
Justice Roberts may hold the key as to whether the final nail in the coffin will be placed for abortion rights and DACA recipients. The term concludes June 2020.
Washington, D.C. based Debbie Hines is a trial attorney, former Baltimore prosecutor and member of the Supreme Court.