HRC Joins Amicus Briefs in Two Supreme Court Cases
April 2, 2010
This month, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear two important cases on LGBT issues, and HRC has recently joined LGBT and other civil rights groups on amicus curiae, or “friend of the court,” briefs in both. First, on April 19th, the Court will hear oral arguments in Christian Legal Society v. Martinez, in which it will decide whether it is constitutional for a public college to refuse to recognize a religious student organization that only allows those that accept the organization’s religious beliefs to become officers and voting members. The CLS group at the University of California – Hastings School of Law refused to adopt the school’s non-discrimination policy, which includes sexual orientation and gender identity, and thus was denied official recognition. Read more about the case here. While this case could have significant repercussions for policies that protect LGBT students, its outcome could reach much further. HRC joined an amicus brief in this case, led by the Anti-Defamation League, which focuses on one of the potential impacts of the case beyond universities – namely, on the issue of whether religious recipients of public funds (for the provision of social services or other programs) can be required to abide by neutral anti-discrimination rules. HRC has worked for many years, along with ADL and other groups, against allowing faith-based groups to use federal funding to discriminate based on religion, including as a proxy for discrimination against LGBT people, either in employment or in providing services. A second case, Doe v. Reed, will be heard on April 28th. In this case, which arises from the failed effort to overturn Washington’s expansion of its domestic partnership law in the Referendum 71 campaign last November, the Court will decide whether the Washington law that makes petition signatures public violates the First Amendment rights of individuals who sign the petition to put an issue on the ballot. The anti-equality forces who worked to put Referendum 71 before the voters argue that disclosing the names of people who signed the petition will put them in danger of intimidation and harassment by pro-LGBT people, and they cite an alleged pattern of such attacks related to the Referendum 71 campaign, as well as the anti-marriage equality campaigns in Massachusetts and California. Read more about this case here. HRC joined an amicus brief, along with National Center for Lesbian Rights, Lambda Legal, Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, that both lays out the importance of the public disclosure of petition signatures in order to fight fraud and lobby the opposition, and also debunks the ridiculous argument that LGBT people are engaging a systematic campaign of intimidation and harassment of anti-equality groups and individuals. We expect decisions in both of these cases this summer – stay tuned to HRC Back Story for updates!