Roundups Law and Policy

Gavel Drop: Man Sentenced for Hate Crime in Murder of Transgender Teen

Jessica Mason Pieklo & Imani Gandy

For the first time ever, a federal court has held that the killing of a transgender person is a hate crime.

Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.

A Mississippi man was sentenced to more than 40 years in prison for the first-ever federal hate crime charge related to an offense against a transgender person for the 2015 killing of 17-year-old Mercedes Williamson.

An Ohio librarian settled a lawsuit against her employer after the library’s health insurance plan refused to pay for her gender confirmation surgery. As part of the agreement, the library system has since changed its insurance policy to cover the procedure.

Retail giant Walmart settled a class-action discrimination lawsuit for $7.5 million after refusing spousal benefits to same-sex couples. The Arkansas-based chain began offering same-sex partners benefits such as health insurance only in 2014, after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act.

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A Kentucky appeals court ruled that a T-shirt printer could refuse to make apparel for a local gay pride event because printing t-shirts with a pro-LGBTQ message would violate his religious beliefs.

Meanwhile, U.S. Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito told Catholic seminary students that their religious liberties were under attack.

An Australian creationist who also has a doctorate in geology has sued the National Park Service, arguing that its refusal to let him root around in Grand Canyon for evidence that the Earth is much younger than scientists have proven violates his First Amendment religious rights.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of Frontier Airlines flight attendants who allege the airline refuses to accommodate pregnant or breastfeeding attendants.

Baylor University faces another Title IX lawsuit related to its football team, and the allegations of parties including gang rape and dog fighting are brutal.

Wisconsin’s so-called “cocaine mom” law could be done for good.

A group of Black voters in Alabama have sued over the way appellate judges are elected in the state, arguing the practice of electing them by statewide vote violates the Voting Rights Act.

The Trump administration is trying to go after the lawyers who stepped up and went to airports to help those stranded and detained following the first Muslim travel and entry ban.

The Ohio Supreme Court is deliberating whether anyone younger than 13—the age of consent in the state—can be charged with sex crimes. The case in question involves a 9-year-old and a 12-year-old.

A group of former inmates is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to review a Minnesota law that allows the state to place convicted sex offenders indefinitely in treatment facilities after they have completed their criminal sentences.

The ACLU of Indiana is suing to block a new law that would allow a judge to tell a minor’s parents their child asked for judicial consent to get an abortion whether the request is granted or not.

A judge dismissed the case of a Tennessee woman who sued after she claims she was illegally denied an abortion while in jail, ruling she waited too long to bring her lawsuit.

Attorneys for the state of Missouri have appealed a lower court ruling blocking a Texas-like requirement that abortion providers in the state have admitting privileges and that area clinics meet unnecessary ambulatory surgical center requirements.

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