Last summer I was a panelist in New York City when the law firm of Fried Frank hosted its 15th annual Michael R. Diehl Civil Rights Forum, on the topic of “Balancing Liberties: The Tension between LGBT Civil Rights and Religious Exemptions.” It’s now been posted online. Other participants included Marci Hamilton (Cardozo Law School and private practice) and Rose Saxe (ACLU). Of the three, I was the panelist who defended the broadest legislative scope for exemptions based on conscience and religious scruple from laws of otherwise general applicability. Jesse Loffler moderated.
Enough already with the bans on so-called inessential travel: short of an impending civil war, boycotts, sanctions, and embargos against U.S. states by the governments of other U.S. states and cities are a truly bad idea [Nathan Christensen, Washington Post]
Relatedly, Gillian White quotes me in the Atlantic on North Carolina’s HB 2 controversy, the latest in a series of battles over discrimination law, religion, business, and LGBT persons, at this point almost entirely symbolic to large publics on both sides, with the considerable differences between particular enactments (Georgia, Mississippi, Indiana, etc.) seeming to matter relatively little. Finding accurate reporting on what the employment provisions of North Carolina’s HB 2 would do is not easy, as Robin Shea discovered [Employment and Labor Insider]
Sen. Ligon misstates the scope of North Carolina’s new law when he writes that “the new law simply prevents local governments from forcing business owners to adopt” policies on transgender bathroom use. As a libertarian, I would be fine with the new law if that were all it did, but in fact Sen. Ligon is describing only Part III of the bill. Part I of the bill imposes affirmative, uniform new duties of exclusion on North Carolina government entities such as schools, town halls, courthouses, state agencies and the state university system, taking away what had generally been at local discretion. This not only will inflict needless burdens on a small and vulnerable sector of the public, but presumes to micromanage local governments and districts in an area where they had not been shown to be misusing their discretion. Whatever the merits of the rest of the bill, the provisions on state-furnished bathrooms are a good example of how legislation in haste from the top down can create new problems of its own.
- “Outdoor guides to Obama: Take a hike” [Sean Higgins, Washington Examiner; Labor Department imposes higher federal-contractor minimum wage on outfitters operating in national parks, though they do not fit conventional definition of contractors]
- Los Angeles: “Gov’t Emails Cast Doubt On Berkeley Minimum Wage Study” [Connor Wolf, Daily Caller]
- Video: David Boaz (Cato) debates Chai Feldblum (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission) on identity in the workplace [Atlantic “Ideas”]
- Oyster visas: when even Sen. Barbara Mikulski says labor regulations go too far, maybe they go too far [Rachel Weiner, Washington Post]
- Lawsuit: California shouldn’t be letting private employees work seven days in a row whether they want to or not [Trevor Burrus, Cato; Mendoza v. Nordstrom brief, Supreme Court of California]
- One hopes U.S. Senate will think carefully before ratifying international labor conventions [Richard Trumka and Craig Becker, Pacific Standard]
- “We’re going to overturn every rock in their lives to find out about their lifestyles”: union chief vows to go after lawmakers seeking to break county liquor monopoly in Montgomery County, Maryland [Bethesda Magazine]
Both sides in the culture war are gearing up for a fight in Congress on the proposed First Amendment Defense Act (FADA), which would establish various rights for persons and institutions who object to same-sex marriage. The bill’s text, however, has proved a moving target (earlier here and here). Scott Shackford at Reason gets farther into the details than the mainstream media has done.
Relatedly, Rod Dreher writes at the American Conservative that as a social conservative who resisted gay marriage, but now considers that cause lost, he believes fellow thinkers concerned with religious liberty should look to ally with libertarians. He recommends Shackford’s recent piece in Reason (which quotes me on adoption issues) noting the organized gay movement’s ever wider split from libertarians on issues of central government power, individual liberty and free association.
- Another web accessibility settlement from the U.S. Department of Justice, this time Carnival cruise lines [Minh Vu and Paul H. Kehoe, Seyfarth Shaw, my warnings on legally prescribed web accessibility]
- A topic I’ve often discussed: “Has The ADA Broken Its Economic Promises To People With Disabilities?” [Amelia Thomson-Deveaux, Five Thirty-Eight]
- Nebraska meat-packer tried too hard to hire only legal workers, will now pay dearly for asking for too many documents [Department of Justice press release]
- Owing to discrimination, a Colorado couple had to drive a few extra miles to get a cake, and fly 2000 extra miles to get a marriage license. So guess who’s now in legal trouble for inconveniencing them [Jacob Sullum, New York Post] Sen. Ted Cruz sounds as if he might be skeptical of religious discrimination laws as applied to public accommodation, and down that path might be found libertarian wisdom [Scott Shackford, Reason]
- EEOC says University of Denver Law School must pay its female faculty more [Denver Post, TaxProf]
- “Court Rejects The EEOC’s Novel Attempt To Impose Disparate Treatment Liability Without Any Injury” [Seyfarth Shaw; EEOC v. AutoZone, N.D. Ill.]
- Because more coercion is always the answer: France considers ban on “discrimination” against poor [Frances Ryan, The Guardian]
- Makes perfect sense: to make transportation more accessible to its residents, Montgomery County, Maryland orders 20 taxi companies to close down [Washington Post]
- “New ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule Spells Trouble For For-Profit Law Schools (And Would For 50 Non-Profit Law Schools)” [Caron, TaxProf]
- “To comply with a twisted interpretation of TCPA, Twitter would have to stop providing certain services altogether.” [Harold Furchtgott-Roth] “New FCC Rules Could Make Polling More Expensive, Less Accurate” [HuffPost Pollster]
- To draft the unpassable bill: Scott Shackford on the politics and bad policy behind the omnibus LGBT Equality Act [Reason] “So How Can Anyone Be Opposed to Non-Discrimination Laws?” [Coyote] More: Establishment liberalism reluctant to admit it’s changed its thinking on religious accommodation, but that’s what’s happened [Ramesh Ponnuru/Bloomberg View]
- Update: “Court rejects claim over goat goring in Olympic National Park” [AP, earlier here and here]
- “I would receive 100 other identical stories [from asylum seekers] with only the names changed.” [The Australian, 2013]
- “Some protested that DNA testing amounted to a violation of canine privacy because dogs were not capable of consent.” [New York Times on Brooklyn condo dispute via @orinkerr]
- Can Uber survive California law? [Brian Doherty on ruling by state administrative law judge over shortcomings in accessibility; Kristian Stout/Truth on the Market on employee classification and compensation class action] The California Labor Commission’s worker-classification ruling has already killed cleaning-services startup Homejoy [Re/Code via @andrewmgrossman] Plus: Uber communicates satirically with its NYC customers in its battle with Mayor Bill de Blasio [Issie Lapowsky, Wired; related, Josh Greenman; and a new study of Los Angeles users finds Uber X twice as fast and half as expensive as taxis (Mark Kleiman)]
- Needed: RFRA for the prepared-foods aisle? “The Trans-Fat Ban Deals A Blow To Kosher Keepers” [Bethany Mandel, Federalist] Consumption of trans fats has already dropped by 85 percent, and “government doesn’t always know best” [me, Arizona PBS]
- “The U.S. Attorney’s Office might has well have a macro that generates gag orders” [Ken at Popehat on Reason subpoena, earlier here, etc.]
- SCOTUS struck down Ohio’s law banning false campaign speech, Massachusetts’s should fall next [Ilya Shapiro and Gabriel Latner, Cato]
- Roger Pilon on church, gays, and “simple idea that people are free to associate or not as they wish” [now un-gated, Cato/WSJ; related, Ilya Shapiro/Washington Times] More on EEOC’s ENDA-by-fiat attempt [Kent Hoover/Business Journals, Nicandro Iannacci, National Constitution Center/Yahoo (thanks for quoting in both cases); Laura Maechtlen and Sam Schwartz-Fenwick, Seyfarth Shaw; and a Washington Blade interview with EEOC member Chai Feldblum, who supported the ruling]
- More reactions to HUD’s ambitious local-neighborhood-diversity scheme, “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” [Hans Bader, Michael Barone, earlier]
- “Star Of Viral Catcalling Video Is Reportedly Suing For Compensation” [Emma Whitford, Gothamist]
The Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, recently in the news for ordering Melissa and Aaron Klein to pay $135,000 for not wanting to make cake for a commitment ceremony, in 2013 ordered the owner of the Twilight Room Annex, a gay-friendly bar in North Portland, to pay $400,000 for disinviting a trans club from meeting at the nightclub on Friday nights after business from other customers dropped off [Oregonian]
After a period of foreshadowing and rumor, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has now gone ahead and ruled that employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is forbidden under existing federal civil rights law, specifically the current ban on sex discrimination. Congress may have declined to pass the long-pending Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), but no matter; the commission can reach the same result on its own just by reinterpreting current law.
It’s not the commission that gets to have the final say on that, however; it’s the federal courts. And there is a fair trail of precedent, including circuit court authority, rejecting the proposition that sex discrimination in this setting can be stretched to cover sexual orientation discrimination. Against that, it will be argued that some recent case law has nonetheless drifted toward the idea; more important, judges will be asked to defer to the EEOC in its (new) expert opinion.
But it’s not easy to think of an agency to whose views federal courts nowadays give less deference than the EEOC. As I’ve noted in a series of posts, judges appointed by Presidents of both political parties have lately made a habit of smacking down the commission’s positions, often in cases where it has tried to get away with a stretchy interpretation of existing law. See, for example, the Fourth Circuit’s rebuke of “pervasive errors and utterly unreliable analysis” in EEOC expert testimony, Justice Stephen Breyer’s scathing majority opinion in Young v. U.P.S. on the shortcomings of the EEOC’s legal stance (in a case the plaintiff won), or these stinging defeats dealt out to the commission in three other cases.