After months of terrible news, from a pandemic to police brutality, recent Supreme Court rulings provided some much-needed good news.
First, we had the momentous Supreme Court decision to protect LGBTQ+ people from workplace discrimination. Finally! And perhaps even more encouraging (or surprising, depending on your point of view), it was a 6-3 decision with the opinion written by the Trump-nominated Justice Neil Gorsuch.
I appreciated Justice Gorsuch’s pragmatic reasons for his decision. He said, “These cases involve no more than the straightforward application of legal terms with plain and settled meanings.”
True, the people who wrote the terms of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of sex, may not have anticipated the law’s application in this way. But like Justice Gorsuch wrote, “the limits of the drafters’ imagination supply no reason to ignore the law’s demands.”
And for those concerned about how Title VII will apply to future issues, Justice Gorsuch also provided a level-headed, pragmatic response. He said, “whether other policies and practices might or might not qualify as unlawful discrimination or find justifications under other provisions of Title VII are questions for future cases, not these.”
Basically, we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it. Fair enough. In the meantime, LGBTQ+ Americans cannot be fired for being gay or transgender. And that is absolutely something to celebrate.
Next on the docket was the ruling regarding Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the Obama-era executive action designed to protect people brought to the U.S. illegally as children from deportation. In a 5-4 decision, the court upheld the executive action, saying the Trump Administration’s justification for winding down the program was insufficient.
Now, the Trump Administration can certainly challenge DACA again with a different justification. But that process will take time and won’t be resolved before this year’s elections. So for now, Dreamers “can breathe a temporary sigh of relief” as Cornell law professor Stephen Yale-Loehr put it. And who knows, maybe we’ll have new leadership after November.
Following the DACA decision on Thursday, President Trump tweeted, “Do you get the impression the Supreme Court doesn’t like me?”
No, Mr. President.
I’m guessing the Supreme Court’s recent decisions have little to do with liking you (though perhaps that’s what you assumed would be the case when you nominated Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh). Rather, their decisions likely have to do with upholding the U.S. Constitution, the rule of law and ensuring our country’s system of checks and balances.
There are several more major decisions expected from the court in the coming weeks on abortion, President Trump’s financial records, and public funding for religious schools. Like me, I’m sure many of you are curious to see how the conservative-leaning court will rule on those issues.
These high-profile court decisions are also an excellent reminder of why it is essential that Americans vote. Presidents have a direct impact on the makeup of the Supreme Court. The judges a president nominates to the Supreme Court (and whom the Senate approves) can serve for life and make decisions that affect Americans for decades. So when we consider who to vote for (or if we want to vote at all), we should keep those long-term ramifications in mind.
Because even if we vote President Trump out of office in November, his influence on the Supreme Court will live on. Since taking office, Trump (with the help of Mitch McConnell) has stacked America’s courts with ideological allies, many of which are white, male and relatively young.
But I digress.
For now, I’m going to celebrate last week’s court decisions on LGBTQ+ rights and DACA. After half a year full of wildfires, international conflict, COVID-19, murder hornets and a long-overdue reckoning with systemic racism, these decisions were much-needed good news.
Meredith Metsker is an Idaho native, University of Idaho alumna and 10-year Moscow resident. A former journalist, she now works in marketing for Emsi, serves on the board of directors for Sojourners’ Alliance and is a big fan of civic engagement.