Welcome to Gavel Drop, our roundup of legal news, headlines, and head-shaking moments in the courts.
Texas appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in hopes that the court will vacate an injunction that blocked the state from cutting Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood. Back in January 2017, the state decided to end more than $3 million in Medicaid funding and tried to use as leverage a misinformation video recorded at Planned Parenthood Gulf Coast by noted smear artist David Daleiden and his so-called Center for Medical Progress. The state says the video shows that Planned Parenthood employees were in breach of ethical and medical standards. Texas is hoping that the Fifth Circuit will rule that the video is grounds to yank Medicaid funding.
But bad news for Daleiden: A federal court in Northern California has ordered Daleiden and his co-defendants to turn over to Planned Parenthood memoranda and other documents related to the Human Capital Project, a sting operation coordinated with Republican lawmakers to attack funding for Planned Parenthood based on the false allegation that Planned Parenthood employees were unlawfully profiting from fetal tissue donation and violating the “partial-birth abortion” ban. Daleiden and company tried to withhold the materials, citing journalistic privilege. Team Legal would like to remind you that David Daleiden is not a journalist. Not even close.
In Virginia, the Gloucester County School Board isn’t done defending its discriminatory bathroom policy that bars transgender students from using the bathroom that aligns with their gender identity. Last month, U.S. District Court Judge Arenda Wright Allen denied the school board’s motion to dismiss Gavin Grimm’s lawsuit challenging the policy, prompting the school board to ask the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals to weigh in. If it takes the case, the Fourth Circuit will decide whether the policy the school board instituted when Grimm was a high school student violates the rights of transgender students.
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In more “taking religious freedom too far” news, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that when an all-male church board referred to women who had been pressured into having sex with then-Pastor Patrick Edouard as “adulteresses,” it was protected speech. The Covenant Reformed Church’s board of elders didn’t defame the women—they were merely expressing their religious beliefs, according to the court. So I guess you can call women “sluts” and “whores” if it’s your sincerely held religious belief that women are sluts and whores. And who cares that Edouard was convicted of sexual exploitation?
A Brownsburg, Indiana, high school orchestra teacher says the school district forced him to resign over its policy regarding transgender students. The school district thinks that teachers should call transgender students by their chosen names—just like, I’m sure, teachers would call a student named Rebecca “Becky” or Jonathan “John” if those students so desired. But John Kluge says it goes against his religious belief to call his transgender students by their chosen name because John Kluge is a ridiculous human being who really should just get over himself.
The next big fight for LGBTQ rights will probably involve private adoption agencies that refuse, citing religious beliefs, to permit gay couples to adopt.
In Rolling Stone, Drexel University law Professor David S. Cohen writes about what the Masterpiece Cakeshop ruling means for LGBTQ rights and notes that the Supreme Court did nothing to resolve whether anti-discrimination principles are more important than the religious beliefs of people who sell goods and services to consumers but want to pick and choose which consumers to serve.
Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, published a letter opposing the confirmation of David Porter to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that he is a conservative ideologue who is not supported by his home state senator.
Immigration advocacy groups—the American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association—are urging a government investigation into the deaths of two immigrants while they were detained in an Immigration and Customs Enforcement center in Aurora, Colorado. In one death in 2012, a man from the African nation of Gabon complained of chest pains and staff waited nearly an hour to seek emergency care. The groups are also asking the government to investigate systemic failures to provide medical and mental health care to detainees at the Aurora facility.
The American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit challenging the Trump administration’s decision to ask about citizenship on the 2020 census, calling it a “naked act of intentional discrimination” and arguing that the Census Bureau is required to count every person accurately.
Grace College and Seminary in Winona Lake, Indiana, won its lawsuit challenging the birth control benefit, the provision in the Affordable Care Act that requires employers to offer birth control with no co-pay, on religious grounds. A federal judge issued a permanent injunction blocking enforcement of the provision against the evangelical Christian College.
The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is appealing a district court ruling that Trump cannot block users on Twitter. Because there’s apparently nothing better for the DOJ to be doing, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions needs to do something to appease his boss.