Civil Rights Law Decisions: Decided
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The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals tossed out a portion of a Texas criminal statute that prohibited taking unauthorized pictures in public for the purposes of sexual gratification after finding that the law violated First Amendment free speech rights.

The state's highest criminal court upheld a lower court decision on Wednesday overturning the law 8-1, reports the Houston Chronicle. Under the law, taking surreptitious photos of a person in a public place, such as upskirt photos of women, was considered a state jail felony. The law was challenged by Ronald Thompson, who was charged under the law in 2011 after taking pictures of clothed children at a San Antonio waterpark.

What was the court's rationale for overturning the law?

A federal judge has ruled in favor of a man and his four sister wives in a decision that struck down a portion of Utah's anti-polygamy law.

The case involved the stars of television reality series "Sister Wives," who filed a civil rights lawsuit against Utah County Attorney Jeff Buhman following a 2010 investigation into allegations of bigamy, reports The Salt Lake Tribune.

Does this "Sister Wives" ruling mean that polygamy is now legal?

The U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute order halting gay marriage in Virginia on Wednesday.

In an underwhelming one-paragraph order, the High Court imposed a stay on the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' ruling, effectively putting Virginia gay marriage on "pause" until it can be appealed. The Washington Post suggests that the Supreme Court doesn't want to implicate itself in making a decision on marriage by refusing to act.

Was this Virginia decision really all that surprising?

A federal appeals court has refused to stay its ruling striking down Virginia's gay marriage ban, potentially allowing same-sex marriages to begin as early as Wednesday.

The 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals had upheld a lower court's ruling striking down Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage last month, but it is refusing to halt the effect of that decision while opponents appeal. The New York Times reports that in a 2-1 decision, a 4th Circuit panel declined to stay its earlier ruling.

Why did the 4th Circuit refuse to stay its decision when so many other courts have?

A Tennessee state court has turned the tide of gay marriage decisions and upheld Tennessee's ban on same-sex marriage.

In a rather short decision issued by Ninth Judicial District Circuit Court Judge Russell Simmons Jr., the judge denied a challenge by a same-sex couple who were legally married in Iowa. As the Washington Blade reports, this "no" to gay marriage is perhaps the first loss in at least 30 court victories for marriage equality in the past year.

So why did the Tennessee court stand fast with the gay marriage ban, and does this signal the end of the courts' pro-gay marriage trend?

An Alabama federal judge ruled Monday that the state's abortion clinic law, requiring admitting privileges at nearby hospitals, was unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge Myron Thompson issued his ruling after a three-week trial on the issue, deciding that the law in question would close more than half of Alabama's abortion clinics. AL.com reports that Judge Thompson had delayed his decision until Monday in order to consider a similar case that found Mississippi's abortion clinic law unconstitutional.

So what did the federal judge say about Alabama's abortion clinic law?

Mississippi's only abortion clinic can stay open, after a federal appeals court found that Mississippi's newest abortion law was unconstitutional.

The Mississippi law was similar to controversial abortion reform that passed in Texas last year; the Texas law was upheld by the same federal appellate court in March. Reuters reports that in a 2-1 decision, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined the Mississippi law would "place an undue burden on a woman's right to seek an abortion."

What makes these decisions so different, and why did the court find Mississippi's law unconstitutional?

A federal district judge has ruled that California's death penalty system is unconstitutional, ironically because Death Row takes too long.

U.S. District Court Judge Cormac J. Carney determined in Jones v. Chappell that the massive delays in the Golden State's administration of the death penalty violated the Eighth Amendment's prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment. Reuters reports that since 1978, only 13 convicts have been executed in California, while more than 900 were sentenced to death.

Is waiting too long for the death penalty in California really unconstitutional?

The University of Texas at Austin can continue its affirmative action program, after a federal appeals court upheld its use on Tuesday.

In a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cleared the use of race in undergraduate admissions, Reuters reports. This decision comes more than one year after the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the case to be returned to the 5th Circuit and be examined under more exacting scrutiny.

Why did affirmative action make it in this case?

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled in Hobby Lobby and Harris v. Quinn, wrapping up its 2013 Term by addressing two contentious issues: Obamacare's contraceptive mandate and public union dues.

In Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, the Court ruled that closely held corporations can object to providing certain forms of birth control to employees as required under Obamacare, if doing so would violate sincerely held religious beliefs. In Harris v. Quinn, the Court held that Illinois home healthcare workers could not be compelled to pay union dues to unions they were not members of.

What was the High Court's rationale in these two much-anticipated opinions?