US Supreme Court Has Yet to Rule on Gay Rights, Travel Ban

The U.S. Supreme Court is entering the last month of its 2017-2018 session. All the cases before the top U.S. court have been argued; only decisions remain to be handed down, including for major issues such as gay rights, abortion, President Donald Trump’s travel ban, gerrymandering, voting rolls and labor unions. 

Here are some of the biggest cases awaiting the court’s decision before the end of June.

Religious rights vs. LGBTQ rights

One of the biggest high-profile cases before the court deals with the religious rights of individual business owners versus the anti-discriminations laws of a state.

A Colorado case pits the rights of cake shop owner Jack Phillips, a Christian who refused to make a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, against a state law that prohibits businesses open to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. 

Similar cases are pending in 21 states with anti-discrimination laws that specifically include the LGBTQ community. Florists, videographers and graphic artists are among businesses being sued for refusing to provide services to same-sex couples on religious grounds. 

Anti-abortion centers vs. free speech

The court will decide whether California can require faith-based crisis pregnancy centers to post signs informing their clients that the state provides free or low-cost abortion and contraception services. The state requires this of all licensed facilities that provide prenatal or family planning services. 

The centers, which are usually faith-based, argue that requiring the notices violates their free-speech right by forcing them to promote procedures they oppose. 

California said notices are required because the centers use deceptive advertising to confuse or misinform women. 

Trump’s travel ban 

Ever since Trump tried to ban visitors and immigrants from several Muslim-majority nations, federal judges in several states have repeatedly blocked the travel restrictions that they called unconstitutional because they discriminated against Muslims. The Supreme Court will now decide whether Trump has the executive power to issue such an order. 

The case before the court, Trump v. Hawaii, concerns the 2017 iteration of the travel ban, which restricted travel of citizens from five mostly Muslim countries — Iran, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen — as well as North Koreans and some individuals connected to the Venezuelan government — in effect, countering the argument about bias against Muslims by including countries that are not Muslim-majority nations. 

The justices allowed that ban to go into effect in December 2017 while the case was pending before the court. The court’s more conservative justices appeared to uphold the policy during arguments in April. 

Gerrymandering: Voting districts vs. political parties

The court is set to rule on two cases regarding partisan gerrymandering, the practice of drawing election districts that give one political party an advantage over another. In the past, the court has struck down districts drawn along racial lines but never for partisan favoritism. 

The justices have heard a case from Wisconsin challenging a statewide map that assured Republicans at least 60 percent of the seats in the state House. The other, from Maryland, shifts voting districts to benefit Democrats. 

The court is also considering election maps in Texas that challengers said discriminated against racial and ethnic minorities. 

Voting rolls vs. voting rights

The court will decide if a state has the right to purge voters from registration rolls based on their voting record. At issue is Ohio’s policy to send a notice to voters who have not exercised their right in two years to confirm their registration. Those who do not respond and do not vote for another four years are removed. The state said it wants to clean up its rolls, but civil rights groups said Ohio has wrongly purged thousands of eligible voters and that the move violates the National Voter Registration Act of 1993.

The court will also decide on a Minnesota case that challenges a state law banning voters from wearing political apparel to the voting booth. Challengers claim the law violates their First Amendment rights. 

Unions vs. public employees

Labor contracts and unions are at the center of one of the most influential pending decisions. The court will decide if teachers, police officers and other public employees can be required to pay union dues, even if they decide not to join a union. The unions argue that the “fair share fees” cover the cost of collective bargaining that in turn benefit the worker who is not a union member. 

In 1977, the court upheld such fees but said workers need not fund unions’ political expenses. Challengers said the court needs to end such fee requirements because they violate workers’ freedom of speech by forcing them to support groups they may oppose. 

The decision could have a broad effect on public sector unions, which cover about 7.2 million employees.