Supreme Court rules for Muslim job applicant over Abercrombie & Fitch

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court strengthened civil rights protections Monday for employees and job applicants who need special treatment in the workplace because of their religious beliefs. The justices sided with a Muslim woman who did not get hired after she showed up to a job interview with clothing retailer Abercrombie & Fitch wearing a black headscarf. The headscarf, or hijab, violated the company’s strict dress code, since changed, for employees who work in its retail stores. Employers generally have to accommodate job applicants and employees with religious needs if the employer at least has an idea that such accommodation is necessary, Justice Antonin Scalia said in his opinion for the court. Job applicant Samantha Elauf did not tell her interviewer she was Muslim. But Scalia said that Abercrombie “at least suspected” that Elauf wore a headscarf for religious reasons. “That is enough,” Scalia said in an opinion for seven justices. Federal civil rights law gives religious practices “favored treatment” that forbids employers from firing or not hiring people based on their observance of religion, Scalia said. The federal civil rights law known as Title VII requires employers to make accommodations for employees’ religious beliefs in most instances. Elauf’s case turned on how employers are supposed to know when someone has a religious need to be accommodated. The decision does not, by itself, resolve her case. Instead, it will return to the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, which earlier ruled against her. “While the Supreme Court reversed the Tenth Circuit decision, it did not determine that A&F discriminated against Ms. Elauf. We will determine our next steps in the litigation,” company spokeswoman Carlene Benz said in an email. Some business groups said Monday’s Continue Reading

Another reason for the Supreme Court to allow gay marriage nationwide: Equal political participation depends upon it

Tuesday, the Supreme Court will hear arguments on the constitutionality of same-sex marriage bans, enduring what will likely amount to 150 minutes of legal and emotional tug-of-war. Standing apart from these impassioned, often gray-area debates exists one straightforward constitutional argument that few consider: State same-sex marriage bans restrict the political contributions of gay couples, violating their First Amendment rights. This uneven application of campaign finance law creates indisputable, mathematic inequality. State marriage bans cut the potential political participation of gay couples in half. Here’s how it works. Under federal law, it’s illegal to make a political contribution in the name of someone else or using someone else’s money. This anti-corruption law is specifically designed to preempt individuals who seek to dishonestly circumvent contribution maximums by making a donation under another name. Married couples are the exception to this rule. Most states — including all four states with marriage bans before the Supreme Court — extend to a husband and wife their own contribution limits, even if only one spouse brings income into the marriage. But committed same-sex couples living in states where their marriage is not recognized do not enjoy the same spousal exemption. To understand the implications of this unequal application of law, consider two hypothetical couples. John and Jane are a single-income married couple living in Tennessee. John is the breadwinner, and Jane is a stay-at-home mother. During the statewide gubernatorial election, John and Jane carefully review the candidates and decide to each donate the maximum contribution of $3,900-both pulled from the husband’s income-to support the incumbent governor. Two people, one single-income household, yet two contributions totaling $7,800. Bob and Bill are a committed, same-sex couple who also reside in Continue Reading

Supreme Court rules in favor of healthcare subsidies in huge victory for White House, Obama declares law is ‘here to stay’

WASHINGTON — Obamacare “is here to stay.” A jubilant President Obama hailed the U.S. Supreme Court ruling Thursday that handed him a monumental victory by preserving his signature health care law that insures millions of Americans. “The Affordable Care Act is here to stay,” Obama said in remarks in the Rose Garden after the ruling. “We’ve got more work to do, but what we’re not gonna do is unroll what has now been woven into the fabric of America.”  FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE" The court, in a 6-to-3 ruling, decided that the subsidies nearly 9 million people receive to help make their health insurance affordable — a key part of the Affordable Care Act, commonly called Obamacare — are legal nationwide and do not depend on where recipients live or purchase them. The ruling means the legislation is almost certain to survive past Obama’s presidency and marks another enormous victory for the administration, which has been forced to defend the law time and time again since its 2010 enactment. Obama argued that the law is working, helping tens of millions get coverage and slowing the rise of health care costs. “This is not an abstract thing anymore. This is not a set of political talking points. This is reality,” he said. “It’s working. In many ways, this law is working better than it’s supposed to.”The case turned on a clause within the 900-page law that allows tax subsidies for people buying insurance in “an exchange established by the state.” The language went unnoted when the law passed. But Obamacare critics who sued argued it barred subsidies for people in 36 states that rely on a federal health-care exchange, having failed to set up state exchanges. Had opponents prevailed, about 6.5 million people would have lost those subsidies, a result that would have threatened Continue Reading

Gay marriages halted in Alabama after state Supreme Court orders judges to cease issuing wedding licenses

Probate judges must again decide whether to issue wedding licenses to gay couples after the Alabama Supreme Court ruled the state’s ban on same-sex marriage is legal, despite a federal court’s decision to the contrary. The all-Republican court sided with a pair of conservative groups Tuesday night and ordered Alabama’s 68 probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. A previous ruling by U.S. District Judge Callie Granade that gay-marriage bans violate the U.S. Constitution does not preclude the judges from following state law, which defines marriage as between a man and a woman, the court ruled. It was not immediately clear what effect the court’s ruling would have, or what probate judges would do after opening their doors Wednesday. The court gave state judges five days to respond if they believe they shouldn’t have to follow the decision, but such a move could be politically risky in much of the deeply conservative state. The U.S. Supreme Court, which already has agreed to decide the legality of same-sex marriage nationwide, also could be asked to review the ruling. While a six-member majority of the nine-member Alabama court did not explicitly invalidate the marriages of hundreds of same-sex couples who obtained licenses in the state in recent weeks, the decision used the term “purported” to describe those licenses. The court’s most outspoken opponent of gay marriage, Chief Justice Roy Moore, recused himself from the case and did not participate in the writing of the unsigned 134-page decision. After Granade’s ruling, Moore told probate judges across the state not to issue same-sex marriage licenses. His stance created widespread confusion, prompting some judges to refuse to issue the licenses and others to shut down their operations for all couples, gay and straight, until they could get a clear answer. Still others decided to issue the licenses. Of the Continue Reading

Saudi Supreme Court upholds verdict against liberal blogger who was publicly flogged

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Saudi Arabia's Supreme Court upheld an internationally condemned verdict against a liberal blogger who was publicly flogged after being found guilty of insulting Islam, state-linked news websites reported Sunday. The Supreme Court's decision to uphold the sentence ofRaifBadawi, a 31-year-old father of three who was lashed in January in a public square, is final and cannot be overturned without a royal pardon. Badawi, imprisoned since 2012, initially was sentenced to seven years in prison and 600 lashes for breaking Saudi Arabia's technology laws and insulting Islamic religious figures through a blog he created. After an appeal, a criminal court in Jiddah last year stiffened the punishment to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes. He also was banned from traveling abroad for 10 years after his prison term and fined $266,000. In January, security officials floggedBadawioutside a mosque in Jiddah. Saudi rights activists said it was meant as a warning to others who think to criticize the religious establishment, of which the ruling family derives much of its authority. Subsequent floggings were halted as the Supreme Court reviewed the case. A person close to the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said that becauseBadawi'sflogging has been halted since January, the Supreme Court ruling may exclude lashings. It was not immediately possible to clarify the details of the judges' ruling. The lashes had been scheduled to be administered over 20 weekly sessions, with 50 lashes each week, according to the London-based rights group Amnesty International. The rights group has launched a global campaign to call forBadawi'srelease and said Sunday that he remains at risk of being flogged. Saudi Arabia's Western allies, including Washington, have called on authorities to rescind the punishment. The kingdom maintains its judiciary is independent and has rejected Continue Reading

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling granting same-sex marriage rights in all states is a boon to immigrant same-sex couples

Last week’s U.S. Supreme court decision granting same-sex couples the right to marry in all U.S. states and in unincorporated U.S. territories, like Puerto Rico, applies to all individuals, including couples from different countries. Prior to the ruling that same-sex marriage is a constitutional right, a same-sex couple wanting to marry sometimes had to travel to another state or country. That was a hardship to some U.S. citizens or permanent residents seeking to petition for a spouse. 10 HISTORICAL MOMENTS IN THE GAY RIGHTS MOVEMENT Since the Supreme Court found the Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutional in 2013, U.S. citizens and permanent residents have had the right to petition for foreign same-sex spouses. But until last week’s decision, many binational same-sex couples had a hard time marrying. For example, one undocumented reader in Puerto Rico wrote about wanting to marry a U.S. citizen living in New York, a state that already allowed same-sex marriages. Until last Thursday, same-sex couples could not marry in Puerto Rico. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." And, an undocumented immigrant traveling to the U.S. from there risked arrest and deportation. Now, the couple can marry in Puerto Rico and the U.S. citizen can petition for her spouse. Once the foreign national gets her green card, the couple can live anywhere they choose. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will recognize marriages lawful in the state or country where the marriage occurred, including marriages in foreign countries. TEXAS A.G: RELIGIOUS BELIEFS TRUMPS GAY MARRIAGE RULING The immigration laws for married same-sex spouses are the same as for different-sex spouses. That includes the right for a U.S. citizen to petition for a same-sex fiancé(e) abroad and for a U.S. citizen or permanent resident to petition for stepchildren created by a same-sex marriage. Of course, as in other marriage cases, USCIS will want proof Continue Reading

The right ruling at the right time: Kudos to Anthony Kennedy and the Supreme Court for making same-sex marriage a national constitutional right

The highest court in the land has made the most momentous social-policy ruling in memory, deeming it a basic, constitutionally protected right for same-sex couples across the nation to marry. It was the right ruling made in the right way, and at the right time. Led by Anthony Kennedy, justices were split 5-4 — with one of the dissents, penned by Antonin Scalia, only qualified to be called viciously contemptuous. GOVERNORS VOW TO FIGHT SCOTUS RULING ON GAY MARRIAGE But Scalia’s bile obscures the fact that in recent years, at breakneck historical speed and with minimal bitterness, the nation has awakened to the wisdom of allowing people, regardless of whom they love, to enjoy equal rights to participate in society’s most basic secular institution. FOLLOW THE DAILY NEWS ON FACEBOOK. CLICK HERE TO "LIKE." Two years ago, with just 12 states recognizing gay marriage, the court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which blocked federal recognition of gay marriage — wisely letting the still-raucous debate continue to play out at the state level. As people saw same-sex couples entering into stable legal unions — and no resulting harm — momentum gathered. On Friday morning before the ruling, 37 states — either by court decision, legislative vote or popular referendum — had extended marriage rights to same-sex couples. In 1996, just 27% of Americans supported making same-sex marriage legal; today, it’s twice as high. The court is reflecting the country and following the lead of the people. There is no meaningful argument on the other side except the word: “because.” This got dressed up in paeans to the importance of the man-woman atomic family unit as the basis for child-rearing, and therefore society. But no one could explain why infertile couples are allowed and even encouraged to marry, with inheritance rights and other benefits resulting. No one Continue Reading

Supreme Court to decide whether union nonmembers must still pay dues

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to take on a case that could deal a heavy blow to public sector unions. The court announced Tuesday that it will hear a challenge to whether government employee unions can require everyone in an industry to pay union dues. The appeal has been filed by some teachers in California who've refused to join the union and are saying it's a violation of their First Amendment rights to still have to pay dues. Labor groups are very worried about the case, especially since last year the justices came close to overruling a 1977 Supreme Court decision that even those public sector employees who refused to join unions had to pay some dues since they benefited from the unions' collective bargaining agreements. The current Supreme Court has not been seen as friendly to unions, whose clout has greatly diminished in recent years as traditionally union-heavy states like Wisconsin and Michigan have severely curtailed labor's ability to retain their current members and organize for new ones. Unions are sounding the alarm. “We are disappointed that at a time when big corporations and the wealthy few are rewriting the rules in their favor, knocking American families and our entire economy off-balance, the Supreme Court has chosen to take a case that threatens the fundamental promise of America — that if you work hard and play by the rules you should be able to provide for your family and live a decent life, " the presidents of the National Education Association, American Federation of Teachers, California Teachers Association, AFSCME and SEIU said in a joint statement. "The Supreme Court is revisiting decisions that have made it possible for people to stick together for a voice at work and in their communities — decisions that have stood for more than 35 years — and that have allowed people to work together for better public services and vibrant communities," they said. Union membership has declined Continue Reading

Supreme Court appears on cusp of declaring right to gay marriage; arguments in case begin Tuesday morning

The U.S. Supreme Court's arguments on Tuesday over same-sex marriage will cap more than two decades of litigation and a transformation in public attitudes. Based on the court's actions during the past two years, a sense of inevitability is in the air: That a majority is on the verge of declaring gay marriage legal nationwide. Justice Anthony Kennedy, the court's pivotal member on gay rights, has been marching in this direction with opinions dating to 1996. In his most recent gay rights decision for the court in 2013, rejecting a legal definition of marriage limited to a man and woman for purposes of federal benefits, Kennedy deplored that U.S. law for making gay marriages "unequal." That 5-4 decision did not address a constitutional right to same-sex marriage, but lower court judges interpreted the ruling as an endorsement of it and began invalidating state bans. When states appealed rulings striking down their same-sex marriage prohibitions, the Supreme Court declined to intervene, most notably in October 2014 when it denied appeals in seven cases on a single day. Instead, the nine justices are hearing in Tuesday's oral arguments an appeal of the sole decision from a regional U.S. appeals court that went the opposite way. Last November, the Cincinnati-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit upheld gay marriage bans in Ohio, Michigan, Kentucky and Tennessee. With 37 of the 50 states now permitting gay marriage, many because of judicial orders, it seems unlikely the country's highest court would reverse course. Public opinion polls over the last decade have shown large increases in support for gay marriage. A ruling is due by the end of June. KEY SWING VOTE Yet some questions remain. How much will Kennedy, a member of the court's five-man conservative bloc who often casts decisive votes in close cases, show his hand in the 2-1/2 hours of oral arguments? Will he reveal a Continue Reading

Hitched to gay marriage: It’s too late for the Supreme Court to turn back the clock on Adam and Steve

The nine justices of the U.S. Supreme Court — or at least the eight who speak during oral argument — posed downright philosophical questions Tuesday as they sought to understand why the right to marry should extend to same-sex couples across the United States. Referring to heterosexual unions, Justice Anthony Kennedy said, “This definition has been with us for millennia. And it — it’s very difficult for the court to say, oh, well, we — we know better.” The view that marriage is between a man and a woman, continued liberal Justice Stephen Breyer, “has been the law everywhere for thousands of years. Suddenly you want nine people outside the ballot box to require states to change [that].” Chimed in conservative Justice Antonin Scalia: “Do you know of any society, prior to the Netherlands in 2001, that permitted same-sex marriage?” The point: While confronting deep questions of equal justice, some or all of the court is approaching with caution the issuance of a broadly transformative order that alienates a significant segment of the country. For years, fear of imposing a divisive constitutional mandate of the kind that legalized abortion has properly pushed the court to delay a full reckoning over gay marriage. But in that time, by letting stand lower-court rulings that overruled state laws against same-sex unions, the justices permitted them to proliferate across the U.S. Gay marriage has become legal in 36 American states — up from just one in 2004 — covering 70% of the population. De facto legalization has taken place, enabling thousands to marry here, there and almost everywhere. Surely the court will conclude that there’s no going back. Continue Reading