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Landmark Supreme Court cases and how they affect you

  • Department of Commerce v. New York

    - Topic of case: citizenship question on 2020 Census
    - Case decided on: June 27, 2019
    - Vote tally: Multiple decisions
    - Justices who concurred: John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Chief Justice at the time: John Roberts

    - Majority and dissenting opinions

    In 2018, the Secretary of Commerce proposed adding back a citizenship question on the 2020 Census. This was argued in the lower courts due to the fact that some households may not respond if they live with someone who is not a citizen. While the Court issued several decisions regarding this case, the district court from which the case was born blocked the Secretary from reinstating the question, but it is still up for consideration in the future.

    How this affects you: The citizenship question could have negative impacts on census response rates if it does get added in the future. This could cause some districts to be redrawn in ways not indicative of the actual population.

  • Rucho v. Common Cause

    - Topic of case: partisan gerrymandering as a judicial question
    - Case decided on: June 27, 2019
    - Vote tally: 5–4 decision for Rucho
    - Justices who concurred: John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Justices who dissented: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan
    - Chief Justice at the time: John Roberts

    - Majority and dissenting opinions

    This case is a consolidation of several cases in which plaintiffs argued that their redistricting plans deliberately discriminated against a certain political party, an act called partisan gerrymandering. The Supreme Court did not pass a specific decision regarding the issue at hand, and found that partisan gerrymandering claims are considered a political question, and is out of the jurisdiction of the federal courts.

    How this affects you: The Court’s vacation of this case allows for partisan gerrymandering to still happen, in which some legislatures redraw districts so that they gain more votes favorable to their political party, rather than the actual constituency that makes up that district.

  • Bostock v. Clayton County

    - Topic of case: firing someone on the basis of homosexuality
    - Case decided on: June 15, 2020
    - Vote tally: 6–3 decision for Bostock
    - Justices who concurred: John Roberts, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch
    - Justices who dissented: Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Chief Justice at the time: John Roberts

    - Majority and dissenting opinions

    Bostock is a consolidation of several cases in which an employee was fired for being homosexual. In a historic ruling, the Court decided in favor of the employees. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act prohibits employers to discriminate against their workers “because of such individual’s race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” Homosexuality is seen as an extension of discriminating against someone based on their sex.

    How this affects you: This case helps expand LGBTQ+ rights in America, as employers cannot discriminate based on the sexual preferences of their employees.

  • R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes Inc. v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

    - Topic of case: firing someone on the basis of being transgender
    - Case decided on: June 15, 2020
    - Vote tally: 6–3 decision for EEOC
    - Justices who concurred: John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Justices who dissented: Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Chief Justice at the time: John Roberts

    - Majority and dissenting opinions

    In a 6–3 decision, the Court concluded that firing someone for being transgender also violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Firing someone based on their sex is a violation of Title VII, and transgender status is seen as an extent of that by the majority.

    How this affects you: Just like Bostock, this ruling is a win for LGBTQ+ rights in America, as employers cannot discriminate based on the identity of their employees.

  • Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California

    - Topic of case: DHS phasing out DACA
    - Case decided on: June 18, 2020
    - Vote tally: Multiple decisions
    - Justices who concurred: John Roberts, Clarence Thomas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Samuel Alito, Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh
    - Chief Justice at the time: John Roberts

    - Majority and dissenting opinions

    After the election of President Donald Trump, the Department of Homeland Security started to phase out the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allowed more than 700,000 undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children to live and work without fear of deportation. The administration argued that the DACA program was illegal based on a prior U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit decision. However, in a 5-4 ruling, the Court decided that the Trump administration violated the proper procedure for phasing out this program, as the Fifth Circuit did not definitively allow a DACA recipient to be deported out of the country if the program is eliminated, and that is one of the key factors to consider before repealing the program.

    How this affects you: While this ruling is important for the lives of all DACA recipients, it does not fully confirm that the DACA program is safe from being eliminated. However, it shows that the administration cannot easily phase out the program unless all factors of the program have been repealed or walked back.

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