Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts
A federal appeals court heard arguments last week between the city of Philadelphia and a Catholic adoption agency over the agency’s refusal to place foster children with same-sex couples. Catholic Social Services (CSS) sued the city for requiring foster care agencies with city contracts to comply with nondiscrimination policies. CSS claims that having to place children with LGBTQ families violates its religious freedom. In July, a federal court disagreed and ruled Philadelphia can require government-contracted foster care agencies to abide by its nondiscrimination policies. CSS asked the U.S. Supreme Court (SCOTUS) to step in, but the court denied its request. No word yet on when the Third Circuit panel will reach a decision. Conservatives have increasingly set their sights on eliminating the familial rights of LGBTQ families. Ten states currently allow publicly funded adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples based on the agency’s religious beliefs.
Another week, another chance for the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) to dismantle transgender rights. The anti-LGBTQ litigation firm is representing an Ohio professor who is suing Shawnee State University for requiring him to respect the gender identities of transgender students. Apparently, it’s just too much for the professor to refer to his students by the pronouns they request. Transgender rights have been a major target for ADF this year: the firm asked SCOTUS to allow employers to legally discriminate against transgender people in the workplace; it wants Christian homeless shelters to be able to deny services to transgender people; and it is still fighting legal battles to deny bathroom access for trans folks.
A transgender woman is suing jail officials in Texas, claiming she was forced to show her genitals and shower with male inmates on three separate occasions over several years.
Attorneys for Planned Parenthood and the state of Arkansas asked a federal appeals court last week to lift a ruling blocking a state law that could have effectively banned medication abortion in the state. Signed in 2015, the Abortion-Inducing Drug Safety Act requires physicians who provide medication abortion to have a signed contract with a doctor who maintains admitting privileges at a local hospital. Advocates challenged the law, arguing it was an undue burden on a pregnant person’s constitutional right to an abortion. After a lengthy legal battle—which almost ended up at SCOTUS—Planned Parenthood found a physician willing to contract with and can now comply with the restriction.
Carol Diggs of C-Ville Weekly wrote a profile of Amy Hagstrom Miller, the lead plaintiff in Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, widely considered to be the most important abortion rights case in a generation.
The Georgia Democratic Party and the Stacey Abrams campaign filed a lawsuit over the weekend asking for rejected absentee ballots and provisional ballots to be counted in the Georgia governor’s race. Republican candidate Brian Kemp currently leads Abrams with 50.3 percent of the vote. But if Abrams can pick up enough votes, she may be able to force a runoff.
In its first opinion of the new term, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last Tuesday that the federal law prohibiting age discrimination in employment applies to state and local government employers, regardless of their size. The unanimous decision was written by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who also caused a slight panic here at Team Legal after she fell in her office and fractured three ribs. But it’s fine! Everything is fine. She’s already back home and working. What a badass.