News (USA)

Several LGBTQ rights cases are headed for a showdown at the Supreme Court this year

The United States Supreme Court building
The United States Supreme Court buildingPhoto: Shutterstock

The Supreme Court of the United States, which now skews conservative with the addition of controversial Justice Brett Kavanaugh to the court, will likely hear as many as nine cases affecting LGBTQ people in 2019.

Chief among them is the Trump administration’s attempt to ban transgender service members. The administration is seeking to halt federal court injunctions against their ban by going straight to the Supreme Court rather than working through the established appeals process.

LGBTQ rights groups are pushing back against this move by the administration, saying that it is simply too soon in the legal process for the Supreme Court to weigh in. 

“The Trump administration has demonstrated no urgency that would justify leapfrogging the normal appellate process, and the military’s own account shows no problems that need to be addressed. By the military’s own account, inclusion of transgender servicemembers makes our military stronger,” according National Center for Lesbian Rights (NCLR) Legal Director Shannon Minter.

Appeals are making their way through the courts now, with one, Stockman v. Trump, going to trial in July of this year. Both it and a second case, Doe v. Trump, are jointly represented by NCLR and GLBTQ Legal Advocates & Defenders. Both groups are pressing for the standard appeals process to be upheld.

A third case, Karnoski v. Trump, is also in the appeals process. In it, Lambda Legal is representing several transgender service members, and are arguing against the Supreme Court bypassing the appeals process.

“The sudden urgency of the Trump administration’s effort to discriminate against transgender service members is bordering on the ridiculous, said Lambda Legal Counsel Peter Renn in a release.

Justices will be considering these cases and several others on January 11 in a private conference. It is possible that justices will agree to the administration’s request, in which case arguments would begin this Spring.

The transgender military ban may be the most high-profile case going before the court, but it is one of several of note for LGBTQ people potentially facing the Supreme Court this session. 

There are three cases pending that may affect the use of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act halt employment discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The issue of the Act covering LGBTQ people has been a hot button issue as well, with the administration arguing that the law doesn’t cover gender identity nor sexual orientation as written.

These cases will be discussed as soon as tomorrow in conference.

Another case involving a wedding cake for a same-sex couple is also due to hit the court, with briefs due on the 25th of January in Klein v. Oregon. This one in particular affects the state’s right to prohibit discrimination after a state court found that the baker at the heart of the case violated state law by refusing to bake a cake, citing his religious beliefs.

Similarly, Aloha Bed and Breakfast v. Cervelli will test the right for the owner of a Hawaiian bed and breakfast to refuse service to LGBTQ patrons over his religious beliefs. This one will also be in conference as soon as tomorrow.

Finally, the court will also be looking at the use of school locker room and restroom use by transgender people when it takes up Doe v. Boyertown on the 22nd of January.

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