Welcome to This Week in Civil Rights and Civil Liberties.
This week’s roundup is co-authored by Antonia Diener and Lexi Butler.
This week, a Texas judge removed protections for transgender people in health insurance markets, and a Florida judge granted a preliminary injunction against a law that placed an economic burden on those with felony records when registering to vote. Meanwhile, the nation mourned the loss of Representative Elijah Cummings, a celebrated civil rights leader and Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.
Federal Judge overturned Obama-era Transgender Protections. Judge Reed O’Connor (Northern District of Texas) vacated an Obama-area regulation prohibiting insurers and providers who receive federal funds from denying treatment or coverage to anyone based on sex, gender identity, or termination of pregnancy. O’Connor, who previously ruled that the entire Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional, said the rule violates the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. (The Hill)
Florida Law Restricting Ex-Felon Voting Temporarily Blocked. Criticized as an “unconstitutional poll tax,” the Florida Law required that, prior to registering to vote, those with felony records pay all back fees and fines. The judge granted a preliminary injunction. (NYTimes)
Representative Elijah Cummings died on Thursday morning. Representative Cummings of Maryland died Thursday morning of complications related to longstanding health problems. Representative Cummings was the Chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee and led investigations of the president’s government dealings, including probes in 2019 relating to Trump’s family members serving in the White House. (Baltimore Sun)
New Austin, TX Ordinance Regarding Camping on Sidewalks. After repealing loitering and panhandling laws in June 2019, the Austin City Council adopted a new ordinance that would limit homeless street encampments near businesses and a local homeless shelter. (AP News)
NY ends ‘double jeopardy loophole’ for presidential pardons. NY Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a law on Wednesday that will close the “double jeopardy loophole,” thereby allowing New York to pursue state challenges against a United States president and associates charged with federal crimes who received a federal pardon. This loophole closure is not retroactive to Trump allies already convicted of crimes. (Newsday)
New Bill in Washington, DC to Decriminalize Prostitution. In the midst of a heated national debate about whether prostitution should be decriminalized, a new bill is being debated in Washington City Council to do just that. If the bill passes, Washington, DC would be the first city in the United States to decriminalize prostitution. (NYTimes)
New York City Council Votes to Close Rikers Island Jail Complex. The New York City Council voted on Thursday to finally close the Rikers Island Jail Complex by 2026. However, the new plan calls for the construction of four new jails (in every borough except Staten Island). Proponents of the plan say this is a move forward for criminal justice reform, but many are in opposition to the construction of the new jails. (Bloomberg)
Fort Worth officer who fatally shot woman in her home has been charged with murder, police say. On Saturday, October 12th around 2:30AM, Atatiana Jefferson was shot and killed in her own home by a Dallas Police Officer. Shortly thereafter, the officer was charged with murder. This case echoes the recent murder of Botham Jean, an unarmed black man who was shot by police officer Amber Guyger after she entered his home. (Washington Post)
Police officer looking for drugs pulled out woman’s tampon in public, lawsuit says. She may get $205K. According to a federal lawsuit, Natalie Simms said she was sitting on the side of the street waiting for her boyfriend when police arrived and asked to search her car, believing she may have had drugs. A female detective arrived to search Simms and asked her to pull down her pants, eventually pulling out her tampon string even after Simms told her she was on her period. The officer acted without a warrant and in a public area. Staff at the city’s attorney’s office has recommended the suit should be settled for $205,000. (USA Today)
Boston Police Worked 9,000 Overtime Hours At The ‘Straight Pride’ Parade. Zero Minutes Were Captured By Body Cameras. None of the 9,000 hours PBD was patrolling at the Straight Pride Parade were captured on body cams, because the hundreds of police officers who were assigned to work the day-long event in August were all on overtime; according to a BPD spokesman the department only requires officers to wear body cameras during regular shifts. This means none of the police interactions at the Parade, including 36 arrests which left four officers injured, and several incidents leading to “use of force” reports, internal investigations or citizen complaints, have no body camera footage. (WBUR)
GM, UAW agree on tentative labor contract, ending monthlong strike. On Wednesday, General Motors and union leaders from the United Auto Workers’ Union came to a tentative deal on a new labor contract to end the month-long strike. The new deal includes closing three plants and certain bonuses. (CNBC)
Harvard Graduate Student Union and University Reach New Agreements, but the Strike Authorization Vote Continues. Earlier this week, the Harvard Graduate Students Union held a strike authorization vote in response to unresolved contractual issues. On Thursday, the Union and the University came to a consensus on one provision about international student rights and one on workspaces and materials. The strike authorization vote will remain open for the next week. (The Crimson)
Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign Publishes Report, Renews Demands. The Harvard Prison Divestment Campaign dropped their research report this week detailing Harvard’s at least $3 million investment in the Prison Industrial Complex. The report also contains the Campaign’s list of demands, including calling on Harvard to publicly disclose their endowments and reappropriate funds toward initiatives in Boston and Cambridge led by people directly impacted by the Prison Industrial Complex. (The Crimson)
College students burn books in response to a lecture on diversity and white privilege. In response to a lecture on white privilege and diversity given by Cuban-American author, Jennine Capo Cruce, students at Georgia Southern University burned her book Make Your Home Among Strangers. Many students stated that they felt attacked by the lecture, taking issue with what they believed were generalizations about privilege and race. (CNN)
Chicago Teachers Will Go On Strike, Capping Years Of Social Justice Activism. Chicago teachers go on strike this week after failed union negotiations with the school district. Despite collaboration, the union maintains that the offers being made by the school district don’t do enough to address their demands for more money for veteran teachers, office clerks, and teacher aides and for better working environments for teachers and learning conditions for students. (NPR)
All-Female Team Takes Space. On October 18, NASA’s Christina Koch and Jessica Meir made history in becoming the first all-female spacewalking team. (AP News)
LSAT will change for all would-be lawyers as a result of blind man’s lawsuit settlement. LSAC will revise the analytical reasoning (logic games) section of the LSAT in response to a settled lawsuit brought by a legally blind man whose inability to draw diagrams made answering the questions even more difficult. (ABA Journal)