US President Donald Trump has suffered some stinging setbacks at the Supreme Court this year, including an abortion case that drew these protesters to pray before the courthouse
Washington (AFP) - The US Supreme Court, with two justices chosen by Donald Trump, has delivered a series of stinging setbacks to the Republican president, including a pair of rulings in its final session of the 2019-2020 term on attempts to pierce the considerable secrecy around his personal fortune.
Here is a summary of some key rulings:
- Sexual minorities -
On June 15, the high court confirmed the rights of millions of gay and transgender Americans in a ruling opposed by the Trump administration.
A 1964 federal law had banned discrimination "on the basis of sex," but the Trump administration asserted that it applied only to male/female differences, not to sexual or gender minorities.
The Supreme Court rejected the administration's argument by a six-to-three vote. Conservative justice Neil Gorsuch, a Trump appointee, authored the majority decision.
Emphasizing a literal reading of the law's text, he said it was impossible for discrimination against a homosexual person to occur without taking into account the person's sex.
"Sex plays a necessary and undisguisable role in (an employer's) decision," he wrote.
- Young undocumented immigrants -
On June 18, the high court blocked the Republican administration from ending a federal program that gave legal status to some 700,000 young immigrants known as Dreamers who had arrived in the country as children with their undocumented parents.
By a five-to-four majority (Chief Justice John Roberts, a moderate conservative, joined the four more liberal justices), the court found the move to cancel the program to be "arbitrary and capricious."
"These horrible & politically charged decisions coming out of the Supreme Court are shotgun blasts into the face of people that are proud to call themselves Republicans or Conservatives," Trump wrote on Twitter, adding, "Do you get the impression that the Supreme Court doesn't like me?"
- Abortion -
On June 29, the high court overturned a Louisiana law that critics said would have forced two of the three abortion clinics in the conservative southern state to close.
There, too, Justice Roberts joined his more left-leaning colleagues in support of "settled law": the Louisiana text was very similar to a Texas law that the Supreme Court had tossed out three years earlier.
The case had been viewed as a test of the determination of the court -- now with two conservative Trump appointees, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh -- to uphold earlier rulings, notably the historic 1973 case of Roe v. Wade that recognizes a woman's constitutional right to an abortion.
The White House, which had supported Louisiana, denounced the ruling, saying that "unelected justices" had "intruded on the sovereign prerogatives of State governments by imposing their own policy preference in favor of abortion."
Trump, who a few years ago described himself as "very pro-choice," now strongly opposes abortion, a major concern for many of his religious supporters.
- Tax-return secrecy -
On Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled on perhaps the most political subject in its latest session: Trump's refusal -- under a particularly expansive view of presidential immunity -- to release tax returns and other financial documents sought by a New York prosecutor.
The court's ruling was a stinging legal rebuke to the president. "No citizen, not even the President, is categorically above the common duty to produce evidence when called upon in a criminal proceeding," Justice Roberts wrote, adding that a president cannot claim absolute immunity.
That opened the way for the eventual transfer of the president's financial documents to the New York prosecutor.
But the ruling also gives Trump's attorneys a chance to object in a lower court to the scope of specific documents being subpoenaed -- that, even when provided, will be subject to the secrecy of a grand jury -- meaning there is little chance of any of the documents becoming public before the November 3 presidential election.
"From a certain point I'm satisfied, from another point I'm not satisfied," the president told reporters Thursday.
He is the first president since the 1970s to refuse to release his tax returns, fueling speculation about what they might contain.
- Consolation prize on religion -
In three separate cases, however, of lesser importance but of keen attention to Trump's religious backers, the five conservative judges gave the president some satisfaction.
The court confirmed the legality of a Trump administration move to allow employers who cite moral or religious objections to limit women’s access to contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
It also found that because of the constitutional separation of church and state, employees of religious schools do not enjoy the same labor protections as others do.
The court also opened the way for students in religious schools to obtain publicly funded scholarships.