Friday, June 30, 2023

A Supreme Week From Hell, Con't

And the Roberts Court saved the worst for last, obliterating Colorado's law protecting same-sex couples from discrimination by ruling that a Christian web site designer cannot be forced to do work for the same-sex couple she believes are second-class citizens.

In a defeat for gay rights, the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled on Friday that a Christian graphic artist who wants to design wedding websites can refuse to work with same-sex couples. One of the court’s liberal justices wrote in a dissent that the decision’s effect is to “mark gays and lesbians for second-class status” and that it opens the door to other discrimination.

The court ruled 6-3 for designer Lorie Smith despite a Colorado law that bars discrimination based on sexual orientation, race, gender and other characteristics. Smith had argued that the law violates her free speech rights.

Smith’s opponents warned that a win for her would allow a range of businesses to discriminate, refusing to serve Black, Jewish or Muslim customers, interracial or interfaith couples or immigrants. But Smith and her supporters had said that a ruling against her would force artists — from painters and photographers to writers and musicians — to do work that is against their beliefs.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote for the court’s six conservative justices that the First Amendment “envisions the United States as a rich and complex place where all persons are free to think and speak as they wish, not as the government demands.” Gorsuch said that the court has long held that “the opportunity to think for ourselves and to express those thoughts freely is among our most cherished liberties and part of what keeps our Republic strong.”

In a dissent, Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote: “Today, the Court, for the first time in its history, grants a business open to the public a constitutional right to refuse to serve members of a protected class.” She was joined by the court’s two other liberals, Justice Elena Kagan and Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson.

Sotomayor said that the decision’s logic “cannot be limited to discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.” A website designer could refuse to create a wedding website for an interracial couple, a stationer could refuse to sell a birth announcement for a disabled couple, and a large retail store could limit its portrait services to “traditional” families, she wrote.

The decision is a win for religious rights and one in a series of cases in recent years in which the justices have sided with religious plaintiffs. Last year, for example, the court ruled along ideological lines for a football coach who prayed on the field at his public high school after games.

The decision is also a retreat on gay rights for the court. For nearly three decades, the court has expanded the rights of LGBTQ people, most notably giving same-sex couples the right to marry in 2015 and announcing five years later in a decision written by Gorsuch that a landmark civil rights law also protects gay, lesbian and transgender people from employment discrimination.

Even as it has expanded gay rights, however, the court has been careful to say those with differing religious views needed to be respected. The belief that marriage can only be between one man and one woman is an idea that “long has been held — and continues to be held — in good faith by reasonable and sincere people here and throughout the world,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the court’s gay marriage decision.
Gorsuch, pulling a Full Alito, practically begs for those with "closely held religious beliefs" to sue over state and federal civil rights protection laws in order to create battleship-sized holes to allow discrimination. We're not quite there yet, but very soon it will be legal to discriminate against whoever you hate most as a religious belief and to refuse to offer them goods and services. The bright line from the Hobby Lobby decision by Scalia to this ruling by Gorsuch is visible from two or three galaxies over.
We're basically at that point now with LGBTQ+ folks.  We can now clearly see the end of the civil rights era, with it being replaced by a "Christian" theocratic dictatorship.

America is going to be a terrible place for everyone who isn't a white straight "Christian" male very soon, and your rights as a US citizen or even as a human being are now optional.

In a stinging defeat for President Joe Biden, the Supreme Court blocked the administration’s student loan forgiveness plan Friday, rejecting a program aimed at delivering up to $20,000 of relief to millions of borrowers struggling with outstanding debt.

The decision was 6-3 with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the conservative supermajority.

It will immediately become a potent issue in the 2024 presidential race, as Biden can try to galvanize liberals by claiming the conservative court prevented him from delivering debt relief to voters. Republicans, meanwhile, are celebrating the ruling as a defeat for a “bailout” plan.

Republican-led states and conservatives challenging the program say it amounts to an unlawful attempt to erase an estimated $430 billion of federal student loan debt under the guise of the pandemic.

Roberts said the Biden administration and Secretary of Education rewrote the law.

“The Secretary’s comprehensive debt cancellation plan cannot fairly be called a waiver – it not only nullifies existing provisions, but augments and expands them dramatically,” Roberts wrote. “However broad the meaning of ‘waive or modify,’ that language cannot authorize the kind of exhaustive rewriting of the statute that has taken place here.”

The White House sought to use the HEROES Act authority to waive the debt.

Roberts said the government needed direct authorization from Congress.
And Republicans will never allow that.
But you'll vote for them anyway because it's Biden's faaaaaaaaaaaaaault.

Householder Of Cards, Con't

Imagine how utterly, massively corrupt you have to be as a Republican politician to actually be convicted of bribery and racketeering and to actually get the maximum sentence for your crimes because of their scope.

In one of the largest corruption cases in Ohio history, former state House Speaker Larry Householder was sentenced Thursday to the maximum 20 years in prison for orchestrating a nearly $60 million illegal bribery scheme that fueled his return to political power.

Once one of the most powerful politicians in Ohio, Householder is now a convicted felon, guilty of racketeering conspiracy and breaking the public's trust.

“Beyond financial greed, I think you just liked power," U.S. District Judge Timothy Black said before sentencing Householder. "You weren't serving the people. You were serving yourself."

Black denied a request that Householder be allowed to report to prison. Instead, two U.S. Marshals handcuffed Householder behind his back and escorted him out of court with his family watching from the front row.

Householder expressed no remorse for leading an extensive bribery scheme at the Ohio Statehouse but instead focused on the harm a prison sentence would impose on his relatives and loved ones. "I would give my life in a heartbeat for my wife and any of my sons," he said.

When Householder's attorney Steven Bradley made a similar argument right before the sentencing, Black interrupted: “The harm to his family was caused by him, not by the court."

Householder, former Ohio Republican Party chairman Matt Borges and three other men were charged with participating in a pay-to-play scheme that helped Householder win control of the Ohio House of Representatives in 2018, pass a $1.3 billion bailout for two nuclear plants in House Bill 6 and defend that law against a ballot initiative to block it.

"You know better than most people how much that money could have meant to the people of Ohio,” Black said of the $1.3 billion bailout. “How many lives could you have improved but you took that away from the people of Ohio and you handed it over to a bunch of suits with private jets."

Federal prosecutors had asked Black to impose a prison sentence between 16 and 20 years. Householder's attorneys requested between a year and a year-and-a-half in prison.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily Glatfelter emphasized the importance of deterring future politicians from repeating Householder's actions. "Sentencing will communicate to the public that the rule of law applies to everyone in this country, including politicians."

Of course the bigger issue is that the Supreme Court tossed a bribery case in New York last month because Clarence Thomas basically said that misuse of public funds is so broad that anything could constitute bribery under our current system, and if I'm Householder's team, I appeal to the 6th Circuit here in Cincy and ask for the prison sentence to be delayed as there's a good chance you'll win.

Mark my words, the opportunity to nullify federal RICO charges against former Republican politicians will not be passed up by the Roberts Court.  

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