Federal ruling on jury exclusion carries big implications for gay rights | MSNBC

Federal ruling on jury exclusion carries big implications for gay rights
01/22/14 08:00 PM—UPDATED 1/22/14 08:00 PM

Discrimination based on sexual orientation just got a whole lot harder to defend, a U.S. appeals court ruled on Tuesday.
The case – Smithkline Beecham Corp dba GlaxoSmithKline vs. Abbott Laboratories – involved a pharmaceutical dispute over HIV drugs, and it dealt with whether attorneys could strike potential jurors just because they were gay or lesbian.

According to Ninth Circuit Judge Stephen R. Reinhardt, they can’t.

But while Tuesday’s opinion focused essentially on jury selection, the decision also has implications for the gay rights movement as a whole, and could affect any lawsuit involving discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.

Judge Reinhardt called for “heightened scrutiny” in such discrimination cases – a move that shifts the burden of proof off of the plaintiffs, and potentially makes challenges to employment protection policies or state bans on same-sex marriage, for example, easier to win.

“The difference is night and day,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & AIDS Project. Under heightened scrutiny, “any law that treats gay people differently is presumed unconstitutional; it no longer gets the benefit of the doubt.”

Typically, cases involving the equal protection rights of gays and lesbians fall under the lowest standard of judicial review, known as “rational basis.” In the second level, “intermediate scrutiny,” the defendant must show how a law or action that treats one group of people differently–usually, people of a particular sex–serves an important government interest. “Strict scrutiny” is the highest level, and requires the government to demonstrate a compelling reason for treating one group of people differently–a high bar that usually applies to discrimination cases based on race.
Judge Reinhardt is the second appeals court judge to call for heightened scrutiny in cases related to sexual orientation discrimination, and the first to do so since June, when the nation’s top court invalidated a law that prevented the federal government from recognizing same-sex nuptials. That ruling, which gutted the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), alluded to a higher level of scrutiny for gay and lesbian couples, but did not explicitly address it by name.

“This decision builds on existing precedent,” said Esseks. “It reflects an evolving understanding by the court, and by the country as a whole, that gay people aren’t different than straight people. And if they’re not different, there’s no reason to treat them differently.”

Back up link:
9th Circuit bans juror exclusion over sexual orientation - latimes.com

very interesting indeed!

seems this could be another very important stone in the road to equal rights just like the fall of DOMA was.

it still baffles me when people act like gays arent discriminated against, why would somebody want to keep gays off of juries to begin with? Holy cow threes some huge bigots out there.

anyway I wonder how far this will impact with this scrutiny level, according to the article it has an potential to make it even with gender and race discrimination.