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The Tricky Topic of Religious Accommodation in Public Places

The New York Times editorial board this month published a problematic opinion piece that is illustrative of the difficulties and ironies that can arise in human rights law. The editorial is about segregated swimming sessions for women in one Brooklyn swimming pool, and it expresses outrage that a public location accommodates the needs of its community's religious women.

Citing city humidity and human rights law, the newspaper's editorial board demands that the city swimming pool cease the accommodation --- a few sessions a week reserved for segregated sex swimming in recognition of the needs of Orthodox Jewish women. The editorial, like the issue itself, reveals just how tricky the topic of religious accommodation can be.

Funeral Protest Laws

When the Westboro Baptist Church will picket the funerals of U.S. servicemembers because it believes those soldiers were punished for a government that recognizes the civil rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender Americans, it shouldn't be shocking to learn they plan to protest the funerals of victims of the nation's worst mass shooting that happened earlier this month at a gay nightclub in Orlando. What may be surprising, in a good way, was how effective a counter-protest of "angels" was in silencing the WBC.

You might think it would just be easier to ban funeral protestors entirely, but even groups like the WBC had First Amendment rights. Here's how those rights are restricted when protesting a funeral.

In the wake of the Orlando nightclub shooting, Hillary Clinton wondered aloud on Twitter: "If the FBI is watching you for suspected terrorist links, you shouldn't be able to just go buy a gun with no questions asked." It's a fair enough position, given Omar Mateen, the man who massacred 49 people that night, had previously been investigated twice by the FBI for connections to terrorist groups. (Both investigations turned up too little to charge Mateen.)

Clinton's proposal prompted some interesting questions, like the one from Townhall Political Editor and Fox News contributor Guy Benson: "Tough, serious Q: What level of suspicion (but not proof) is sufficient to deprive a US citizen of a constitutional right?" So could states actually deny gun permits to people who've been suspected of having terrorist links? And if so, how would that suspicion be defined?

The massacre of 50 patrons at a gay club in Orlando over the weekend focused debate on many legal, political, and moral issues: homophobia, homegrown terrorism, and, of course, gun control. Depending on which database you use, there have been between 133 and 176 mass shootings in the 166 days of 2016 alone.

Gun control laws are just one aspect of the horrifying shooting in Orlando, but they are a persistent discussion topic after every mass shooting. Here are seven of the biggest questions regarding gun control laws from our archives:

Not everyone feels comfortable with the body in which they were born. And not everyone identifies as the gender assigned to them on their birth certificate. Therefore, many people choose to change the gender on their birth certificate and other official documents to more accurately reflect their gender identity.

Unfortunately, making this change isn't always as easy as it sounds, and can require a variety of legal documents and procedures. So do you need a lawyer to officially change your gender?

The Aloha State's already stringent gun regulations may get even tougher soon, with proposed legislation that would allow state officials to keep tabs on gun owners or applicants via an FBI database. The bill would only affect Hawaii residents who own guns or apply for gun licenses, but it create an alert system to notify the state if such residents are arrested in another state.

Here's how the FBI system works, and how it might affect Hawaii gun owners.

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.