Things That Matter

The Supreme Court’s Term Is Starting Off With Major Cases That Will Impact The Lives Of Many Americans

The nine justices of the Supreme Court will return to the chambers to an explosive docket. The court is set to hear cases covering an array of social issues from abortion to DACA to LGBTQ+ discrimination to the Second Amendment. It is shaping up to be a major term for the highest court in the land.

The Supreme Court is getting ready to hear a series of cases that could impact some of the biggest social issues in American culture.

Credit: @hshaban / Twitter

All eyes are on the Supreme Court as major cases are being presented. Some of the cases included in the docket for this term of the Supreme Court are the fate of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), the definition of “sex” as it pertains to Title 7 of the Civil Rights Act and the LGBTQ community’s right to work without discrimination, an abortion case from Louisiana seeking to limit abortion rights, and a gun regulation from New York City.

On Oct. 8, the Supreme Court heard arguments about discrimination protections for LGBTQ+ people.

In almost half of the country, there are no laws protecting people in the LGBTQ+ community from being discriminated against in the workplace. The Supreme Court heard arguments from two gay men and one trans woman claiming that they were fired from their places of work because of their identity.

During oral arguments, when the employers being sued in the case argued that sex is different than same-sex attraction, Justice Elena Kagan suggested that the law does favor the employees.

“If he were a woman, he wouldn’t have been fired,” Justice Kagan told General Solicitor Noel Francisco, who is representing the employers. “This is the usual kind of way in which we interpret statutes now. We look to laws. We don’t look to predictions. We don’t look to desires. We don’t look to wishes. We look to laws.”

The Trump administration is aiming to get rid of DACA protections from almost 700,000 young people.

Credit: @SenWarren / Twitter

DACA is a program that was first created by President Obama. It gave almost 700,000 young immigrants who came to the U.S. as children the chance to go to college, get work permits, and protected them from deportation. The Trump administration ended the program in 2017 and immediately threw the lives of all DACA recipients in limbo.

United We Dream, a DACA-led media company filed its own brief with the Supreme Court. The brief is a first-of-its-kind video brief with DACA recipients arguing their case for preserving DACA. The organization also included an official written brief.

“DACA has accomplished far more than affording deferred prosecutorial action. It has created lifechanging opportunities for hundreds of thousands of promising young people. DACA has allowed them to lead fuller and more vibrant lives, including by seizing opportunities to advance their education, furthering their careers, providing critical help to their families, and giving back to their communities,” reads the United We Dream brief. “Able to make use of the basic building blocks of a productive life—a Social Security number, work authorization, or driver’s license, for example—DACA recipients have thrived. They are students, teachers, health care workers, first responders, community leaders, and small business owners. They are also spouses, neighbors, classmates, friends, and coworkers. Collectively, they are parents of over a quarter-million U.S. citizens, and 70% of DACA recipients have an immediate family member who is a U.S. citizen. They pay taxes, contribute to their local economies in myriad ways, and spur a virtuous cycle of further opportunity for many Americans.”

Another case people are watching is an abortion case coming out of Louisiana.

Credit: @IlhanMN / Twitter

The case, June Medical Services v. Gee, isn’t aiming to overturn Roe v. Wade but it is hoping to limit the abortion rights of women starting in Louisiana. The law being challenged requires all abortion providers to get privileges are a hospital 30 miles from where the abortions take place.

The case is very similar to a Texas case that the Supreme Court rejected three terms ago. As such, the Louisiana case is asking the Supreme Court to distinguish between the two cases and to determine that the restriction is legitimate if a legislator vouches that the restriction is valid rather than it being valid in practice. As it stands, the law would leave just one doctor in the state of Louisiana allowed to perform abortions.

Another case getting some attention as it sits on the Supreme Court docket deals with the Second Amendment.

Credit: @DaigleLawGroup / Twitter

New York City’s original rule made it so handguns could only be transported to seven gun ranges throughout the city. While the case was originally contested because of the rule. New York City changed the rule and asked the court to dismiss the case as moot, but the court rejected the motion. This will be the first time the Supreme Court has heard a case about the Second Amendment’s reach in over a decade and is being hailed as a victory for gun rights advocates.

READ: DACA Advocates Shut Down Joe Biden At Last Night’s Democratic Debate, Here’s The Message They Delivered Loud And Clear

This Woman’s Viral Poem Explores The Cultural Stigma Attached To LGBTQ Identities

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This Woman’s Viral Poem Explores The Cultural Stigma Attached To LGBTQ Identities

@2shotsofmely / Twitter

We all know how annoying family can be, nitpicking and offering opinions about how we choose to live our lives. Sometimes, though, our relatives’ perspectives are more than frustrating—they can be hurtful, causing us to question and doubt our place in the world. For many of us, it may be really difficult to address these issues with our loved ones, and we might often need to process these complex situations on our own before we can make any progress within our relationships. For Twitter user Hot Girl Scholar (@2shotsofmely), art was part of this process. She addressed some deep family conflict through poetry, and y’all, Twitter was shook.

According to her pinned tweet, @2shotsofmely and her family emigrated to the US from the Dominican Republic when she was seven years old. In May of this year, she graduated cum laude from Clark University with a BA in English and a minor in Education, ecstatic to dedicate her degree to immigrant and first-generation students. By embracing her role as a “hood girl, educator, and undercover poet,” @2shotsofmely is “living [her] mama’s wildest dreams”—although the poems that have electrified Twitter focus on some hard-to-swallow cultural viewpoints, reiterated by su madre y su abuela.

In poetry, the author of the poem is not always the speaker of the poem, but because of the caption in @2shotsofmely’s post (“Heard it so much I wrote poems about it”), it is clear that these poems—displayed on the walls of Elevated Thought, a Lawrence-based art and social justice organization—are written from her perspective. 

In one poem, “Negra Yo, Pero El No!,” @2shotsofmely acknowledges the hypocrisy (and the shadowy nature of racism and colorism) that defines how her mother reacts to a hypothetical boyfriend: based on the title, we know that @2shotsofmely’s mother is black, yet she proclaims that if @2shotsofmely ever dated a moreno, he must have a thin nose—la nariz fina—green eyes like @2shotsofmely’s grandfather, and “good hair.” In other words, he must not have black features. Why? “Because hay que refinar la raza.”

In the other poem, “LGBTQue?,” @2shotsofmely explores the cultural stigma attached to LGBTQ identities, affirming that her grandmother would “prefer [we] open [our] legs for all the men in the barrio before we walk around with a sister in our arms.”

The original tweet has garnered over 2.3k likes and 900 retweets—people can’t stop gassing @2shotsofmely’s badass display of honesty, the simultaneous pride in and critique of her roots. Several people expressed solidarity, citing events from their own lives that mirrored @2shotsofmely’s poetry.

This Twitter user really related to @2shotsofmely’s experience on the receiving end of her mother’s words.

This Latina responded in Spanish, explaining that her own grandmother married a white man para “mejorar la raza,” but affirmed that it wasn’t her fault—this point of view, according to @ditasea88, is a remnant of colonization.

This Twitter user applauded “LGBTQue?” for its resonance and truth.

Her poems even moved some folks to tears.

Although each of these tweets suggests a common experience which is largely negative, the response to @2shotsofmely’s poetry was rich with compassion—not only for those other Twitter users who share that experience, but for the madres y abuelas whose lives were very different than ours, and who had to make different decisions as a result. History is complex and difficult to synthesize without a broad contextual understanding, and @2shotsofmely’s work draws attention to how cultural patterns from the past can leave a dark impact on the present. However, alongside the criticism and pain at the core of these poems, there is something else: a sense of defiance and hope.

Now, in the midst of the political chaos within our country, it is especially important to celebrate the victories of individuals and groups creating supportive platforms for folks—particularly people of color—to express themselves. It is always exciting to see expressions of Latinidad—from art to poetry to a bomb Insta selfie—spark conversation and communion, even if people are relating about moments that have left them hurt or bruised. In a way, this type of conversation creates a sense of camaraderie, amistad—a feeling of familia.  

And although a lot of Latina familias struggle with antiquated viewpoints (like those presented in @2shotsofmely’s poems), times are changing, and cultural expectations are becoming more inclusive to Latinx people with a range of diverse identities. Often, the more difficult aspects of our upbringing lead us to create meaningful work and connect with others who can relate to us—@2shotsofmely’s poetry is a great example of how intergenerational trauma can produce beauty, connection, and personal growth when you honor yourself and your dreams. @2shotsofmely, you go, girl!

Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

Things That Matter

Sonia Sotomayor Calls The Case On DACA’s Fate One Of The Justices Deciding Whether To Destroy Lives

Gage Skidmore / Flickr

While the US Supreme Court’s conservative-majority justices are seemingly ready to allow Trump to rescind Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, Justice Sonia Sotomayor clearly stated her opinion that the court’s decision, “is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.” The 2012 policy shields immigrants, who were brought to the United States as children without documentation, from deportation and allows them to work for up to two years at a time. Research shows that DACA has reduced the number of undocumented immigrants living in poverty, and has improved mental health status for DACA participants and their children. The Trump administration rescinded DACA protections for nearly 700,000 recipients in 2017. 

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments to end DACA and is expected to deliver a decision by Spring 2020.

Two memos lie at the heart of the decision.

Credit: @Princeton / Twitter

The first memo was begrudgingly given by then Acting Secretary of Homeland Security, Elaine C. Duke. Duke’s volunteer history included offering legal aid to immigrants. During a White House meeting with Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller, she was pressured to issue a memo that would end DACA. Attorney General Jeff Sessions told Duke that DACA was illegal, on the grounds of it exceeding presidential power. Duke issued a bare-bones memo that offered no policy reason for the end of DACA, except that it was unlawful. She later resigned.

Her replacement, Kirstjen Nielsen, retroactively justified the decision with a second memo, which included a new reason to end DACA: to project a message of consistency of enforcement of all immigration laws.

Now, US solicitor general Noel Francisco is arguing that Obama’s decision to introduce DACA exceeded presidential power.

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

“Basic administrative law is you look at what’s first given to you,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor told Francisco, not “what you add later.” Still, she said that even if “you ignore that and even look at the Nielsen memo, I think my colleagues have rightly pointed there’s a whole lot of reliance interests that weren’t looked at.” What’s crucial to this decision, according to Sotomayor, is that President Trump had told “DACA-eligible people that they were safe under him and that he would find a way to keep them here. And so he hasn’t and, instead, he’s done this.” 

In 2017, Trump tweeted, in reference to DACA recipients, “Does anybody really want to throw out good, educated and accomplished young people who have jobs, some serving in the military?”

Trump tweeted Tuesday that DACA recipients are “far from angels.”

Credit: @realdonaldtrump / Twitter

“Many of the people in DACA, no longer very young, are far from ‘angels,'” Trump tweeted Tuesday. “Some are very tough, hardened criminals. President Obama said he had no legal right to sign order, but would anyway. If Supreme Court remedies with overturn, a deal will be made with Dems for them to stay!”

A major requirement for DACA recipients is that they have no criminal record. “Trump is fear-mongering and falsely accusing people of color,” Dr. Eugene Gu tweeted. “Many DACA recipients are doctors, lawyers, professors, scientists, teachers, and integral members of society. Many have never set foot in their original countries for their whole lives and speak mainly English. Threatening to deport them through racist fear-mongering is evil.”

The events leading up to the memo led Sotomayor to believe “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

Credit: @Grindr / Twitter

Trump’s promise to protect DACA recipients during his campaign and his about-face is “something to be considered before you rescind a policy. Not just say I’ll give you six months to do it – to destroy your lives.” At the end of the day, Sotomayor is pointing out that Francisco’s argument is not evident in the memos. “Where is all of this in the memo? Where is all of this really considered and weighed? And where is the political decision made clearly,” she asked. Sotomayor concluded, “that this is not about the law; this is about our choice to destroy lives.”

Sotomayor also argued that DACA simply allows law enforcement agencies to prioritize its use of its limited resources.

Credit: @Grindr / Twitter

“I have always had some difficulty in understanding the illegality of DACA,” Sotomayor offered her opinion. “We all know [ICE] has limited resources. It can’t, even when it wants to remove the vast majority of aliens we have here. And so I’ve always had some difficulty in understanding what’s wrong with an agency saying, we’re going to prioritize our removals, and for those people, like the DACA people who haven’t committed crimes, who are lawfully employed, who are paying taxes, who pose no threat to our security, and there’s a whole list of prerequisites, we’re not going to exercise our limited resources to try to get rid of those people. I — I still have an impossible time.”

Oh, and Sotomayor was interrupted numerous times by Francisco and her male peers.

Credit: US Supreme Court

A 2017 Northwestern Pritzker School of Law study found that male justices interrupt female justices three times as often as each other during oral arguments. The study also found that conservative justices were twice as likely to interrupt liberal justices than liberal justices were to interrupt their conservative peers. According to Supreme Court transcripts, Justice Sotomayor was interrupted by Justice Neil Gorsuch. The two both awkwardly apologized to each other when Sotomayor graciously told Gorsuch, “No, no, continue.”

When Justice Sotomayor was in the middle of her arguments, General Francisco interrupted her, saying, “So I guess I have three responses, Your Honor.” Sotomayor bluntly said, “All right. But let me just finish my question.” Francisco casually said, “Oh, sure,” to which Sotomayor incredulously asked, “Okay?” “Yeah,” Francisco responded to the Justice.

A decision is expected to be made public by Spring 2020.

READ: Justice Sonia Sotomayor Breaks New Two-Minute Rule By Interrupting Lawyer During Immigration Case