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Wake Up To Politics - June 16, 2020

Good Tuesday morning. It’s June 16, 2020. 140 days until Election Day. Have questions, comments, or tips? Email me.

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Federal law protects LGBT workers from discrimination, Supreme Court rules

In a landmark decision on Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that federal law prohibits American employers from discriminating against workers for their sexual orientation or gender identity, a sweeping victory for LGBT advocates.

Until Monday’s surprise 6-3 decision — in which Justice Neil Gorsuch and Chief Justice John Roberts joined the four liberal justices in the majority — it was legal in 29 states to fire an employee because they identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender.

In his opinion for the court, Gorsuch declared that LGBT workers were protected under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits discrimination “because of sex” in the workplace.

“An employer who fired an individual for being homosexual or transgender fires that person for traits or actions it would not have questioned in members of a different sex,” wrote Gorsuch, President Donald Trump’s first appointee to the court. “Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in the decision, exactly what Title VII forbids.”

Gorsuch grounded his opinion in his trademark textualism, arguing that because of the inextricable connection between sexual orientation and sex, LGBT Americans are protected by a literal reading of the civil rights law’s ban on any sex-based discrimination, even if that isn’t what the lawmakers of the 1960s had in mind.

“Those who adopted the Civil Rights Act might not have anticipated their work would lead to this particular result... But the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands,” he wrote, adding, “Only the written word is the law, and all persons are entitled to its benefit.”

Justice Samuel Alito, meanwhile, based his dissent on an originalist approach, maintaining that the framers of the law did not originally intend to protect sexual orientation or gender identity — and therefore LGBT Americans aren’t covered by it.

“If every single living American had been surveyed in 1964, it would have been hard to find any who thought that discrimination because of sex meant discrimination because of sexual orientation — not to mention gender identity, a concept that was essentially unknown at the time,” Alito wrote.

Referring to the decision as “preposterous,” Alito also accused the majority of attempting to legislate from the bench. “A more brazen abuse of our authority to interpret statutes is hard to recall,” he added.

As LGBT advocates celebrated the historic ruling — “Today, we can go to work without the fear of being fired for who we are and who we love,” plaintiff Gerald Bostock said in a statement — conservative activists bemoaned it, focusing their ire on Gorsuch, one of their own.

“Justice Scalia would be disappointed that his successor has bungled textualism so badly today, for the sake of appealing to college campuses and editorial boards,” Judicial Crisis Network President Carrie Severino said. “You can’t redefine the meaning of words themselves and still be doing textualism. This is an ominous sign for anyone concerned about the future of representative democracy.”

President Trump, who has cited his appointments of Justices Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh as key accomplishments of his first term, rhetorically shrugged when asked about the decision by reporters on Monday.

“They’ve ruled, and we live with their decision; that’s what it’s all about,” Trump responded. “We live with the decision of the Supreme Court... A very powerful decision, actually. But they have so ruled.”

Two more liberal Supreme Court victories:

  • “The Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the Trump administration’s challenge to a California ‘sanctuary’ law, leaving intact rules that prohibit law enforcement officials from aiding federal agents in taking custody of immigrants as they are released from jail.” (Los Angeles Times)
  • “The U.S. Supreme Court turned away 10 appeals that sought to broaden constitutional firearm protections, rejecting calls for rights to own a semi-automatic assault rifle and carry a handgun in public.” (Bloomberg)

And a loss for police reform activists:

  • “The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear eight cases involving a legal defense called qualified immunity that can be used to shield government officials from lawsuits, including seven involving police accused of excessive force or other misconduct.” (Reuters)

The Rundown

Trump to sign executive order on police reform: Three weeks and one day after George Floyd was killed by a police officer in Minneapolis, President Trump will seek to enact police reforms with a new executive order today.

According to the White House, the order will offer incentives for police departments to create best practices for the use of force (including banning the chokehold), share information to a database tracking officers who use excessive force, and institute co-responder programs in which social workers would accompany police officers when responding to nonviolent incidents.

The president will sign the order at a Rose Garden ceremony attended by family members of victims of police violence.

Pence encourages false coronavirus claim: “Vice President Mike Pence encouraged governors on Monday to adopt the administration’s claim that increased testing helps account for the new coronavirus outbreak reports, even though evidence has shown that the explanation is misleading.”

“On a call with the governors, audio of which was obtained by The New York Times, Mr. Pence urged them ‘to continue to explain to your citizens the magnitude of the increase in testing’ in addressing the new outbreaks.”

... “In fact, seven-day averages in several states with outbreaks have increased since May 31, and in at least 14 states, the positive case rate is increasing faster than the increase in the average number of tests.” (New York Times)

White House book club: President Trump pushed back against his former national security adviser, John Bolton, on Monday as Bolton prepares to publish a tell-all memoir about his time in the administration.

Trump claimed that Bolton’s book contains “highly classified information” that it would be illegal to publish, although Bolton’s attorney said he cooperated with an extensive review process by the National Security Council. Simon & Shuster, Bolton’s publisher, plans to move forward with the book’s planned June 23 release, despite the White House’s insistence that the memoir is not legally ready for publication.

According to the publisher, in “The Room
Where It Happened: A White House Memoir,” Bolton will detail an array of presidential misconduct. “I am hard-pressed
to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn’t driven by reelection calculations,” he will write in the memoir.

--- But Bolton’s memoir isn’t the only upcoming book targeting Trump. The president’s niece, Mary Trump, has penned a tell-all of her own, Simon & Schuster confirmed Monday. “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man” will be released on July 28; according to the publisher, the book will include an explosive account of Trump’s upbringing and family relationships. Per the Daily Beast, Mary Trump will also reveal herself in the book as a primary source for the New York Times’ extensive investigation of the Trump family’s taxes in 2018.


*All times Eastern

President Donald Trump will deliver remarks and sign an executive order on “safe policing for safe communities” at 12 p.m. and receive his intelligence briefing at 2 p.m.

Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Forest City, Iowa. He will have lunch with Gov. Kim Reynolds (R-IA) at 12:45 p.m., tour Winnebago Industries (a recreational vehicle manufacturer) at 2:30 p.m., and deliver remarks to Winnebago employees on “opening up America again” at 3:10 p.m.

Ahead of the VP’s visit, the Des Moines Register released its new poll of the presidential election in Iowa, finding the Trump-Pence ticket leading Democratic rival Joe Biden by just 1 percentage point, 44% to 43%. Trump won the state by 9 percentage points in 2016.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and continue consideration of the Great American Outdoors Act, which would create a $9.5 billion fund to be used over the next five years for the maintenance of national parks and other public lands. The bill would also provide $900 million annually for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, ensuring permanent funding for the program.

The chamber will recess from 12:30 p.m. to 2:15 p.m. for weekly caucus meetings. A final vote on the Great American Outdoors Act will likely be held after the caucus meetings; the House is then expected to take up the bill before July 4.

The House is not in session.

The Supreme Court is not in session.

Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden will participate in a virtual event hosted by the League of Conservation Voters Victory Fund.

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