5th Circuit Civil Rights Law News - U.S. Fifth Circuit
U.S. Fifth Circuit - The FindLaw 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Opinion Summaries Blog

Recently in Civil Rights Law Category

A little more than a week after U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves struck down Mississippi's gay marriage ban, the Fifth Circuit propped it back up, albeit possibly temporarily.

Late last week, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals granted a stay pending appeal to the state of Mississippi, allowing the state to continue to enforce its ban on gay marriage. However, the ban may not last long -- the court also consolidated the appeal with two others out of Louisiana and Texas, setting the oral argument showdown for all three states in early January.

"If gay marriage can be legal in Mississippi, the whole country can feel hope."

True indeed, Jocelyn "Joce" Pritchett. Pritchett is one of the plaintiffs in the Mississippi gay marriage case, a federal case where a judge just struck down that state's same-sex marriage ban, reports The Associated Press.

The Mississippi decision is especially notable due to the people of Mississippi's opposition to same-sex marriage, an opinion that they have made "abundantly clear through every channel in which popular opinion can be voiced," U.S. District Court Judge Carlton Reeves in Jackson, Mississippi wrote.

Thanks to some intrepid journalism by FindLaw blogger (and native Texan) Brett Snider, we've obtained a copy of the plaintiffs' motion to lift the stay on the injunction against Texas' same-sex marriage ban.

That's a lot of prepositions. Way back in February, the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas held the state's same sex marriage ban unconstitutional. The court stayed enforcement of its injunction, however, because same-sex marriage cases were pending at the Supreme Court and in other federal circuit courts of appeal.

Well, the state of campaign finance laws isn't all bad. A month or so after the Tenth Circuit said that Citizens United didn't have to disclose the contributors to its film "Rocky Mountain Heist," the Fifth Circuit upheld the constitutionality of Mississippi's campaign disclosure requirements, reversing a district court order to the contrary.

The case centers on a state law that requires disclosure when a political committee advocating for a voter-initiated amendment to the state constitution receives a donation of over $200 from a single person in a given month or when a single, unaffiliated individual spends over $200 "to influence voters."

Every circuit gets its 15 minutes of fame. The Tenth Circuit drew a lot of attention this year for being the first to rule on marriage equality. The Fourth and D.C. Circuits battled for headlines by releasing conflicting Obamacare subsidy opinions on the same day. And everyone is waiting on the Sixth Circuit, which could be the first to rule against gay marriage, which would likely lead to a Supreme Court showdown on the issue.

The next few months, however, will belong to the Fifth Circuit. On December 2, a panel will hear a challenge to Obamacare based on the origination clause. And in early January, the Fifth Circuit will hear oral arguments in consolidated gay marriage cases out of Louisiana and Texas, as well as a full review of Texas House Bill 2, the controversial law that set forth broad restrictions on abortions in the state.

What are the two hottest issues in Texas? The Cowboys and the Cowboys. But for those of you who aren't sports fans, the other answer is gay marriage and the state's embattled voter ID legislation. Both are headed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, and possibly to the Supreme Court.

Let's take a look at the latest developments in these two burning civil rights issues:

Just when thought it was safe to go back in the voting booth. Yesterday, the Supreme Court issued a surprise order lifting the Seventh Circuit's stay of enforcement on the district court's order in Wisconsin. All that procedural argle bargle means that Wisconsin won't be enforcing its voter ID law this November. This comes after the Court issued opposite orders in Ohio and North Carolina.

Now, Texas has entered the fray. Judge Nelva Gonzales Ramos of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas issued an opinion yesterday finding Texas' voter ID law unconstitutional and enjoining its enforcement.

Last week, the Supreme Court granted certiorari to Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Communities Project Inc.

The grant was limited to the first question presented -- i.e., whether disparate impact claims are cognizable under the Fair Housing Act (FHA). (Of course, this requires another inevitable question: "What's the standard for such claims?")

Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals held oral arguments on whether to issue an emergency stay of the district court's order enjoining enforcement of Texas' abortion law pending the outcome of the appeal on the merits. It's telling that Judge Jennifer Walker Elrod, who was the most hostile of the three judges to the opponents of the law, wrote the opinion here.

The Fifth Circuit lifted the stay yesterday, allowing the law to be enforced, which, according to The New York Times, necessitated the immediate closure of 13 abortion clinics that weren't in compliance with the questionably necessary requirements forcing abortion clinics to become little hospitals.

Just when you thought same-sex marriage in the United States couldn't get any more complicated, a state judge in Louisiana has ruled that the state's ban on same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.

No biggie -- that's happening all over the place -- but the ruling comes less than a month after a federal district court judge upheld the ban as constitutional. The newest ruling comes from Louisiana's 15th Judicial District Court; Judicial District Courts are the state's trial courts.