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Love Wins: Supreme Court Recognizes Marriage Equality

Today, the Supreme Court issued a landmark decision [PDF],holding that “same-sex couples may exercise the fundamental right to marry” and guaranteeing that the right to marry the person you love no longer depends on where you live. In doing so, the Supreme Court recognized that the Constitutions protections “extend to certain personal choices central to individual dignity and autonomy, including intimate choices that define personal identity and beliefs.” Read more »

Supreme Court Lets Doctors Practice Medicine, Not Politics

Yesterday was a good day for women’s health and the integrity of the doctor-patient relationship. The Supreme Court refused to review the Fourth Circuit’s decision striking down a coercive North Carolina law that inserted politicians’ views where they don’t belong.

The law, passed in 2011, would have subjected every woman in North Carolina to an unnecessary and invasive procedure before she could get an abortion. And it forced doctors to prioritize the messages of anti-abortion politicians over good medicine. Every court that has considered this law, including a federal district court and the Fourth Circuit, found it unconstitutional. Read more »

Why the Griswold Case Matters to 99% of Women (and Everyone Else Too)

Fifty years ago, the Supreme Court decided the case of Griswold v. Connecticut, which legalized access to and use of birth control. Whether you’re part of the 99% of women who use birth control at some point in their lives or not, Griswold has had an impact your life. Griswold was the foundation for many of the rights that shape our lives today, like the right to determine if and when to have children, the right to determine how to raise your children, and the right to have intimate relationships with whomever you love. Read more »

I'm All About Griswold

Growing up, I was not fond of my middle name. Griswold isn’t exactly every eight-year-old’s dream middle name. I tried to avoid anything with monogrammed initials for fear that someone would ask me what the G stood for. Grace served as a convenient substitute. Then I heard about Griswold v. Read more »

Finding Griswold's Missing Women

Fifty years ago this week, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution did not permit a state to prohibit the use of contraceptives within marriage or the provision of contraceptives to married people. Finding a “zone of privacy created by several fundamental constitutional guarantees,” the majority concluded that the contraception bans unconstitutionally intruded on marriage, which the Court described as “a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred.” Seven years later, in Eisenstadt v. Baird, the Court extended the constitutional right to use birth control to unmarried couples.

By guaranteeing legal access to birth control, the Griswold decision opened the door for dramatic changes for women and for our society. As the Supreme Court has since observed, “The ability of women to participate equally in the economic and social life of the Nation has been facilitated by their ability to control their reproductive lives.”  In fact, research has shown that availability of reliable birth control has been a key driver of the increases in U.S. women’s education, labor force participation, average earnings, and the narrowing in the wage gap between women and men achieved over recent decades. Read more »

Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Civil Rights

Today the Supreme Court issued a major victory for civil rights in its 8-1 EEOC v. Abercrombie & Fitch Stores [PDF] decision.  More surprising than the favorable decision or the fact that it was nearly unanimous, is the author of the majority opinion: Justice Scalia. According to Justice Scalia and the majority of the Court, Abercrombie may have violated a job applicant’s civil rights when it rejected her application because she wore a hijab, even though her religious beliefs never came up in the interview.

The case focused on Samantha Elauf, a practicing Muslim who had applied for a sales position with Abercrombie Kids. Following an interview with the store manager, who rated her as qualified for hire, the store manager was concerned that Samantha’s head scarf might violate the store’s Look Policy, which prohibited employees from wearing “caps.” The district manager told the store manager that all headwear, religious or not, violates the store’s Look Policy, and directed the store manager to therefore not hire Samantha. Samantha filed a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), and the EEOC sued Abercrombie on Samantha’s behalf for violating her religious rights under Title VII. Read more »

Walking a Fine Line: The Supreme Court (Mostly) Maintains Respect for EEOC Authority in Mach Mining v. EEOC Decision

Last week, the Supreme Court unanimously decided in Mach Mining v. EEOC that while courts can review the EEOC’s conciliation process, the scope of that review is extremely limited, in order to give the legislated deference to the agency and protect confidentiality in negotiations.

What does that mean, why is it important, and what are its implications?

What it means.

This case began when a woman filed a complaint with the EEOC alleging that Mach Mining violated Title VII by refusing to hire her as a miner based on her sex, evidenced in part because Mach Mining had never actually hired a female miner before (and did not even have a women’s bathroom on its mining premises). As required under Title VII, the EEOC first attempted to conciliate the dispute—meaning that it first attempted an informal resolution with the employer before filing a lawsuit—but, reaching no resolution, it sued the company in court. Read more »

Argument Recap: Do Same-Sex Marriage Bans Discriminate on the Basis of Sex?

Yesterday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in four consolidated cases, which present the question of whether the Constitution requires states to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize those marriages performed in other states where they are legal. The National Women’s Law Center, along with women’s legal organizations and legal scholars, submitted a brief [PDF] arguing that state same-sex marriage bans must be subject to heightened scrutiny under the Constitution, just as are other laws that discriminate on the basis of sex. And from the arguments, it seems like at least some of the Justices read it.

During the argument, Ruth Bader Ginsburg touched on the significance of gender stereotyping in the context of the now-abandoned “meaning” of marriage.  As Justices Roberts and Kennedy pondered whether the court had a right to challenge a definition of marriage that had existed for “millennia”, [PDF] Justice Ginsburg quickly pointed out that marriage today is very different than it was under the common law, reminding them: “Marriage was a relationship of a dominant male to a subordinate female… Would that be a choice that states should still be allowed to have? To cling to marriage the way it once was?” Read more »

Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument in Marriage Equality Cases

Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral argument in Obergefell v. Hodges and three consolidated cases. The outcome will determine whether states can refuse to allow same-sex couples to marry or refuse to recognize their marriages. Stereotypes about women and men and the roles they should play in marriage have no place in law. The Supreme Court has long recognized that the Constitution prohibits discrimination on the basis of discrimination; now, it must recognize that the Constitution prohibits sexual orientation discrimination on this basis. Read more »

SCOTUS and Medicaid: Another Threat to Women’s Health Care

In a 5-4 ruling yesterday, the Supreme Court decided that health care providers cannot sue state Medicaid programs to enforce federal Medicaid law. In Armstrong v. Exceptional Child, Medicaid providers for individuals with developmental disabilities had sued Idaho over payment rates that, they argued, violated requirements in the Medicaid statute that require states to pay participating providers rates that ensure patients’ access to services. Read more »