Cultural Issues in the Courts: May 2017 Update

Courthouse with the year 2017 overlayed

May 26, 2017

An important ruling for religious freedom — plus some setbacks in protecting the right to life and religious conscience rights — are all subjects of this issue of the Executive Briefing Judicial Update.

Religious Freedom, Free Speech, Homosexuality — Kentucky

A Christian printer does not have to print a gay pride t-shirt for an LGBT advocacy group to comply with local non-discrimination laws, says a Kentucky state appeals court. Hands On Originals and one of its owners, Blaine Adamson, successfully argued that choosing not to promote a message one disagrees with is not the same as discriminating against a person or class of people.

Sexual Orientation, Federal Employment Law — Indiana

Discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation is the same as “gender stereotyping” for purposes of federal employment law, the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled recently. The decision, in effect, rewrites a federal law protecting women from workplace discrimination, but ultimately weakens the protections for women. This ruling conflicts with a recent decision from the 11th Circuit, setting up a “circuit split” that could make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Religious Freedom, Homosexuality — California

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear an appeal concerning California’s law banning licensed therapists from offering “conversion therapy,” a/k/a sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE), for minors. The 2012 law was challenged by counselors and therapists on religious freedom and free speech grounds. This is now the second time that the high court has refused to hear a SOCE-related case.

Life, Abortion, Ultrasound Laws — Indiana

A federal judge has temporarily blocked a recent Indiana pro-life law from going into effect. The law, which requires an abortion-minded woman to obtain an ultrasound at least 18 hours prior to an abortion, rather than immediately before it — is designed to provide an opportunity for the woman to reconsider her decision. The judge ruled this time-delay would likely create an undue burden on the constitutional right to have an abortion.

Religious Freedom, Same-sex Marriage — Kentucky

A federal appeals court has revived a lawsuit against Kim Davis. The county clerk in Kentucky made headlines in 2015 — and even served jail time — for refusing to sign her name for religious conscience reasons to same-sex marriage licenses. The same-sex couple bringing the suit seeks monetary damages, including punitive damages, for Davis’ refusal to grant them a license in wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2015 Obergefell decision.