Legal Wrap: Too Soon to Celebrate the Fall of ‘Religious Liberty’ Bills in the States


Legal Wrap is a weekly round-up of key legal reproductive rights and justice news.

Arizona’s so-called religious liberty bill may have been vetoed after considerable corporate pressure and public outrage, but the fact is, the kind of broad protections for discriminatory conduct proposed in Arizona and elsewhere is precisely the kind of protections the Supreme Court will consider granting later this month in the challenges to the contraception mandate. And that’s a problem.

Just in case it wasn’t clear that the defeat of the Arizona “religious liberty” bill should be seen as a short-term win, the state is at it again, this time with a bill that would allow judges and other public officials to decline to perform same-sex marriages based on their religious beliefs.

North Dakota lawmakers pushed a “carnival” of anti-choice legislation in 2013, knowing full-well the result would be thousands of dollars in legal fees to lose in court. At what point do voters say “enough”?

Former Virginia attorney general and failed gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli is now shilling pre-paid legal services for gun owners worried about getting sued should they fire their weapon in “self-defense.”

Attorneys for the Alliance Defending Freedom agreed to settle yet another lawsuit in which they claim universities have violated the First Amendment rights of anti-choice student groups by regulating where and how they can display graphic anti-abortion imagery.

In Madison, Wisconsin, a federal court has refused a request by anti-choice groups to block a newly enacted buffer zone ordinance that protects individuals entering health-care clinics from unwanted “sidewalk counseling.”

It finally looks like we’re getting some movement on Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s military sexual assault measure. Adele Stan has the latest here.

The University of California, Berkeley is the latest school to face complaints from current and former students that the university administration failed to properly respond to sexual assault and harassment on campus.

In Pennsylvania, a third judge has ruled that state’s juvenile sex offender registration is unconstitutional, holding that the law fails to properly take into account juveniles’ greater capacity for reform.

For the first time in history, the Arkansas Supreme Court will be made up of a majority of female judges, joining only eight other states who have a majority of female justices on their state high courts. Progress!

Finally, yes, elections matter. But voters matter more. Which is why this piece by Imani Gandy on the continued erasure of Black women as an electoral force is a must-read, especially for the reproductive rights community.

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  • anja

    These are not most definitely not “religious liberty” bills but “right to discriminate” or “right to enforce one’s religious beliefs on another” bills. Both are atrocious ideas and do noting but drag us back to a darker bigoted America that we’ve been working so hard to escape from for the last 50 years. Do we really want to go back to a segregated America and morality officers rounding up what is not in religious fashion? I sure don’t.

    • P. McCoy

      Even the playing field then, start discriminating against them see how the like it. Imagine owning a coffee shop and seeing some Catholics ordering fish this Friday and you the owner come up to the table and say” we don’t serve members of the Catholic Church, they discriminate against Gays, and women as well as defend the sex crimes of their clergy by rationalizing their crimes by saying that a few doesn’t make all guilty. Well, it does if you defend the pope not declaring that the whole church is guilty. Get up and leave, we don’t want your business, can’t take the food, don’t come back or we will have the police arrest you. ” They WOULD go running to the Supreme Court braying about what an anti Catholic bigot that you are. In a heartbeat.

      • anja

        The problem with that solution is that the Catholic Church and other religious bigots have the legal & judicial systems in their pockets so the actions you suggest would get you sued, fined, and jailed if not lynched, yet they want the equivalent actions to be acceptable & legal.
        Probably the best solution would be to ban ALL religious influence from government and (probably) public life.