Monday, June 28, 2010

God, Guns and Gays

No, not the political strategy, but two decisions from SCOTUS today:

Justices Rule 2nd Amendment Gun Rights Apply to States:

The Second Amendment’s guarantee of an individual right to bear arms applies to state and local gun control laws, the Supreme Court ruled on Monday in 5-to-4 decision.

The ruling came almost exactly two years after the court first ruled that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to own guns in District of Columbia v. Heller, another 5-4 decision.

But the Heller case addressed only federal laws; it left open the question of whether Second Amendment rights protect gun owners from overreaching by state and local governments.

Justice [Samuel] Alito, joined by Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, said that the Second Amendment, like other provisions of the Bill of Rights guaranteeing fundamental rights, must be applied to the states under the Fourteenth Amendment.
Once the Heller decision came down two years ago, this was basically an expected formality. Neither the majority opinion nor dissent really breaks any new ground, although it's amusing to read the conservative bloc majority, which usually favors states' rights, and the liberal bloc minority, which favors federalism, tie themselves in knots: the conservatives demand that the states recognize their interpretation, while the liberals argue the states should be allowed to make their own interpretation.

Meanwhile, this continues to be the "Kennedy Court." He swung over to the liberal bloc and voted to ban funding for a Christian advocacy group which actively discriminates based on sexual orientation.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- An ideologically split Supreme Court ruled Monday that a law school can legally deny recognition to a Christian student group that won't let gays join, with one justice saying that the First Amendment does not require a public university to validate or support the group's ''discriminatory practices.''

The court turned away an appeal from the Christian Legal Society, which sued to get funding and recognition from the University of California's Hastings College of the Law. The CLS requires that voting members sign a statement of faith and regards ''unrepentant participation in or advocacy of a sexually immoral lifestyle'' as being inconsistent with that faith.

But Hastings, which is in San Francisco, said no recognized campus groups may exclude people due to religious belief or sexual orientation.

The court on a 5-4 judgment upheld the lower court rulings saying the Christian group's First Amendment rights of association, free speech and free exercise were not violated by the college's nondiscrimination policy.

Said Alito in dissent:
Our proudest boast of our free speech jurisprudence is that we protect the freedom to express 'the thought that we hate. Today's decision rests on a very different principle: no freedom for expression that offends prevailing standards of political correctness in our country's institutions of higher learning.
And Stevens, in one of his last opinions, responded:
While the Constitution 'may protect CLS's discriminatory practices off campus, it does not require a public university to validate or support them. Other groups may exclude or mistreat Jews, blacks and women -- or those who do not share their contempt for Jews, blacks and women. A free society must tolerate such groups. It need not subsidize them, give them its official imprimatur, or grant them equal access to law school facilities.
Bonus Irony: Justice Stevens' last day coincides with the first day of Elena Kagan's circus, er "farce", er "vapid, hollow" hearings to replace him.

The gun case is McDonald v. City of Chicago (2010).
The free speech case is Christian Legal Society v. Martinez (2010).

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