This morning the Supreme Court will hear a case about playground surfaces that could pave the way for public funding of religious schools. Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Inc. v. Comer asks whether Missouri’s Department of Natural Resources must allow religious entities to participate in a state program providing grants for resurfacing playgrounds with tire scraps. The State denied Trinity Lutheran’s grant application, citing a provision in the Missouri Constitution providing that public funds cannot be used “in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.”
Yesterday, in a landmark opinion, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ruled that employers can be sued for discriminating against employees because of their sexual orientation. But this laudable ruling, which most likely sets the stage for a future Supreme Court showdown, comes as the Supreme Court seems poised to add a new and ultraconservative justice to its ranks: Neil Gorsuch.
Writing for the court in Hively v. Ivy Tech Community College of Indiana, Chief Judge Diane Wood concluded that “discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination” and, therefore, unlawful under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (the civil rights statute that protects against discrimination in the workplace based on “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin”). Chief Judge Wood’s opinion was joined by seven members of the eleven-judge panel. Of the eight judges in the majority, Republican presidents appointed five. Judge Diane Sykes, who was on President Trump’s short list for potential nominees to the Supreme Court, dissented. Read more
Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted along party lines to advance the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for a seat on the Supreme Court. Judge Gorsuch’s nomination will now move to the floor thanks to the votes of all 11 Republican members of the Committee and without attracting a single Democratic vote.
Moreover, it became clear at today’s hearing that Judge Gorsuch will be unable to amass bipartisan support in the full Senate in the form of the 60 votes needed to secure a lifetime spot on the Court. This revelation led Republicans to cry foul, claiming that the 60-vote threshold is unnecessary and concluding that the only reasonable course of action is to change the Senate rules to require merely 51 votes to confirm a Supreme Court nominee. Read more