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LGBT Protection Amendment Fails in Dramatic House Vote

Yesterday on the House floor in Washington DC, lawmakers took their cues from TV, after an amendment intended to protect LGBT rights was narrowly voted down. Shouting, "Shame! Shame!" Democrats blamed Republicans for extending the vote until it failed, pressuring representatives, and snatching "discrimination from the jaws of equality."

Shouts of "shame" were in reference to a dramatic scene from Game of Thrones in which a queen is forced to walk naked in the streets. Never mind whether the reference really works here. What's clear is that our lawmakers appreciate drama. The scene was reportedly wild and an interesting illustration of civics at work.

While some states have been suing the federal government for the right to discriminate against transgender people when it comes to bathroom access, California is going in the other direction. The same state that led the way on transgender student access to bathrooms in schools just passed a bill requiring all public, single-occupancy bathrooms in the state be gender neutral.

The new law would allow anyone to access these bathrooms, regardless of gender identity. So will the Golden State's take on transgender bathroom access be the norm, or remain an outlier?

Workplace Privacy: Can an Employer Search My Bag?

Search at work is a complicated topic, and a lot hinges on reasonable expectations of privacy. Generally speaking, we can expect privacy at work with respect to our personal items -- bags, briefcases, and purses -- but there are certainly exceptions.

Employers can, under certain circumstances, search an employee's effects, like a locker or desk, and even a bag depending on company policy. The determination of legality or illegality is made on a case-by-case basis. Let's look at what a court considers when contemplating a search at work and whether it was an invasion of privacy.

Places Where Discrimination Happens and When to Sue

Exclusivity and mistreatment is always unpleasant, there is just no denying it. Sometimes we have to live with it and sometimes we may even choose to ignore it for our own purposes. But if you are being excluded based on who you are or a legally protected characteristic, then discrimination is a basis for legal action.

There are a number of local, state, and federal laws that mandate equal treatment in various settings, and these outline the obligations of businesses or institutions dealing with the public. But not all situations, even when discriminatory, are necessarily going to make a great basis for a lawsuit. Let's look at some places where discrimination might occur and what situations are more likely to be worth fighting for.

Snapchat Stands up for Right to Snap Ballot Selfies

Snapchatters may be relieved to know that last week the "mobile storytelling app" stood up to support your right to take selfies in a voting booth. The "ballot selfie" case arises out of New Hampshire, where a judge last year struck down a ban on ballot box photography, finding the ban curbed First Amendment free speech rights.

Snapchat disagrees with the ban, so filed an amicus brief last week. This is the first time the five-year-old company has independently filed such a brief. But snaps are Snapchat's bread and butter, so it should be no wonder that the company likened the ballot box selfie to "I voted" stickers of the past and says bans on ballot booth photography are outdated, impractical, and impossible to enforce.

Like Alabama, Puerto Rico resisted federal court rulings overturning it's ban on same-sex marriage. And like Alabama, Puerto Rico got slapped by a federal circuit court of appeals. Unlike Alabama though, Puerto Rico at least had a decent argument for flaunting a higher court's ruling -- not every civil right preserved in the Constitution extends to Puerto Ricans.

But, as the First Circuit Court of Appeals ruled last week, the right to marriage is protected for same-sex couples in Puerto Rico. And the court was not vague about its ruling.

It's an election year, so the topic of voter fraud will be all over the news from the primaries to the presidency. And the debate doesn't just center on what kind of voter fraud laws to pass, but whether the relative risk of voter fraud is high enough to justify such statutes.

With politics being politics, and so much on the line in the next presidential election, it's worth examining how prevalent voter fraud really is, what laws are in place to prevent it, and whether those laws are effective.

North Carolina's Anti-Discrimination Law: What You Need to Know

The national battle over LGBT rights is heating up, with North Carolina's newest law challenged by transgender activists in a lawsuit and Georgia's governor announcing he'll veto a controversial bill deemed discriminatory.

The North Carolina law prevents localities from extending protections for sexual orientation and gender identity in service businesses. It was written in response to a Charlotte ordinance permitting people to use restrooms according to their gender identity. Meanwhile, Georgia House Bill 757 would have allowed for discrimination against the LGBT community by faith-based organizations.

It's pretty well settled by now that employers can't discriminate based on race. But that doesn't mean that racial discrimination in the workplace doesn't happen. The hard part can be identifying discrimination when it happens and then proving it in a complaint or a lawsuit.

So what are your legal options if a current or prospective employer discriminated against you based on your race, and when can you exercise them?

What the Supreme Court's Stand on Louisiana Abortion Law Means Nationally

Late last week the Supreme Court blocked enforcement of a Louisiana law that requires abortion clinic doctors to have admitting privileges in nearby hospitals. The High Court's move was hailed as a victory for reproductive rights activists and a sign of the likely outcome for a similar law challenged in Texas. Let's look at why the matters to women, and men, nationally.