Civil Rights Law Decisions: Decided

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A recent Ninth Circuit decision requires all crisis pregnancy centers to distribute information about publicly funded contraception and abortion services. This is not welcome news for pro-life groups. California's Reproductive Freedom, Accountability, Comprehensive Care, and Transparency Act went into effect on January 1st, 2016 and requires that pregnancy centers and clinics provide a notice to their patients about the available, publicly funded, prenatal, abortion and family planning services.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, a pro-life organization, and two other groups, challenged the act's constitutionality and sought a preliminary injunction exempting them from posting the required-by-law notifications. After the lower court rejected and dismissed their claims, they appealed. The 9th Circuit upheld the act in a decision published last Friday.

In what must be a shock to Mike Pence, Indiana's Republican Governor and Donald Trump's running mate, a federal appeals court confirmed that Pence did in fact discriminate against Syrian refugees. Pence insisted that his action in denying funding to any state agency that assisted Syrian refugees was not an act of discrimination. However, both the Federal District Court and Federal Appeals Court pointed out that Pence's action was discriminatory, and that he is going to lose the underlying lawsuit.

Last year, amid the crisis in Syria causing millions of people to be displaced from their homes, over half of which being children, countries around the world opened their borders and hearts. The United States has only accepted a small fraction of the displaced peoples. In Indiana, Pence wanted to impose an outright ban on refugees. However, in no uncertain terms, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals wasn't buying it.

Last week, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed the decision of the lower court, stating that they properly denied the preliminary injunction requested by the plaintiffs in the case of Defense Distributed v. Department of State. This is the case involving the infamous Liberator, a 3D printable hand gun that cannot be detected in a metal detector. The design schematics have already been distributed over the internet and downloaded countless times.

The decision itself, while fascinating in its own right, does not even touch the most important and highly contentious questions that the district court must now decide.

Last week, California teachers across 13 districts breathed a collective sigh of relief as a court ruled that standardized test scores of students should not be factored into teacher evaluations. Judge Goode explained that legislative purposes behind the standardized tests are to evaluate students, schools, and even whole local education agencies, and that using the tests to evaluate individual teachers was not envisioned by the legislature.

While the proponents for evaluating teachers based on standardized test results, a group called Students Matter, can still appeal this ruling, the ruling against them clearly explains that the law does not say what they want it to say. This lawsuit was strongly opposed by the California teachers union.

Good news for teachers in the Golden State: the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal challenging teacher tenure and other job protections for educators. This means seniority rules and due process protections for teachers will remain in place, after a trial court judge threw them out in 2014.

This case is just one flashpoint in the current push-and-pull of traditional teacher protections and unionization and a platform of education reform that aims to re-make schools in the image of private businesses. Here's a closer look at the court's ruling.

Spark Networks Settles: Dating Sites to Recognize LGBT Users

Love is blind. It does not discriminate. The same now applies to Christian Mingle and other targeted dating sites owned by Spark Networks, according to an approved settlement in a California court case seeking accommodation for LGBT singles.

The lawsuit was brought by two gay men on behalf of a class of plaintiffs and alleged successfully that the Spark Networks dating websites violate state law by not allowing certain preferences to be expressed in a profile or in site searches. According to the terms of the settlement, this will change within two years, CBC News reports.

Feds Issue Guidance to Schools on Treatment of Transgender Students

The Department of Education last week issued guidance to public schools on protecting the civil rights of transgender students. For schools, this is about more than just making students feel safe. Their federal funding depends on compliance with the law.

The new guidance is intended to make it clear to public school educators that transgender students cannot be discriminated against and that schools don't decide gender identity. In other words, public schools must respect the gender self-identification of students, and that applies to bathroom use too.

Cleveland will pay Tamir Rice's family $6 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit after Rice was shot and killed by a police officer in 2014. It represents the city's largest settlement in a police-related lawsuit, but the city admitted no wrongdoing in the 12-year-old's shooting, which occurred while he was playing with a toy gun in a park.

The settlement is on par with other police misconduct claims nationwide, and was a long time coming for the Rice family.

Ever since Wisconsin passed a law requiring residents to present a valid photo ID at the polls in order to vote, the state has been a lightning rod in the debate about voter fraud laws. Preceding the 2014 elections, amidst a flurry of litigation, the Supreme Court stepped in and ruled that Wisconsin could not enforce its ID requirement.

Last week, with a presidential election looming in the fall, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals waded back into the voter ID law morass, ruling that Wisconsin residents who have difficulty getting photo IDs may be able to vote without them.

Unanimous Supreme Court Rejects Texas Voter Challenge

The Supreme Court today unanimously rejected a challenge to Texas legislative districting, upholding the constitutionality of a law that counts total population as opposed to eligible voters for purposes of district creation. The plaintiffs in Evenwel v. Abbot argued that a Texas law was unconstitutional because it violates the "one-person one-vote" principle.

The court disagreed, holding, "As constitutional history, precedent, and practice demonstrate, a State or locality may draw its legislative districts based on total population." In other words, one person who does not and cannot vote can still be a person who counts for districting purposes.