It’s Groundhog Day, the day when Punxsutawney Phil takes a gander at his shade and decides how much more winter we’ll all have to endure.
Not a bad idea, that – and one that has some resonance for those of us who habit the world of litigation. February’s not too late for us to look at the shadows of last year’s most crucial decisions and get a sense of how the long-term legal temperature’s rising and falling on some of the major issues of our time.
So with that, a glimpse at the 2006 cases that are likely to overshadow coming events in 2007:
1) Scheidler v. National Organization of Women, Inc. (February 21) – The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that anti-abortion protesters are not liable under federal racketeering statutes.
A resounding defeat for NOW and its allies in their decades-long effort to paint the Right to Life movement as a mafia-like organization.
2) Rumsfeld v. Forum for Academic and Institutional Rights (March 7) – The Supreme Court ruled that institutions which accept government funding (including state universities) cannot compel private organizations – including student religious groups – to accept as members those who disagree with the group’s viewpoint.
In other words, state schools cannot use their own non-discrimination policies to undermine students’ Constitutional freedom of assembly, or to limit select groups’ access to university facilities.
3) Hernandez v. Robles (July 6) – The New York Court of Appeals struck down an effort to judicially redefine marriage in the state, saying the issue should be left to the legislature.
This decision – one of nine similar decisions issued in a three-month period last summer – dealt a stunning blow to those pushing for government-endorsed same-sex “marriage.”
The court affirmed that the only legal basis for government involvement in marriage is to provide the best possible environment for rearing children (future citizens), and endorsed the view that this “ideal environment” is most dependably found in a stable, loving, two-gender marriage.
4) Citizens for Equal Protection v. Bruning (July 14) – In Nebraska, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit reversed a district court decision that had declared unconstitutional a state amendment preserving marriage.
The court affirmed the legal interpretations of the New York decision, and found no reason to fabricate a federal right to same-sex “marriage.”
5) Andersen v. King County (July 26) – The Washington Supreme Court declared the state’s law defining marriage as “the union of one man and one woman” constitutional, reversing two lower court decisions.
The ruling, issued in the face of withering political pressure from those promoting the homosexual political agenda, over-rode the decisions of two activist judges who had tried to thwart the express will of Washington voters.
6) Sklar v. Clough
A major breakthrough for free speech on America’s college campuses, where Christian and even conservative perspectives are often officially stifled in favor of an aggressive leftist agenda.
7) Gonzales v. Planned Parenthood (November 8) – A federal appeals court upheld federal protection for pro-life medical professionals who refuse to perform or refer for abortions.
In effect, the ruling scuttled the abortion activists’ contention that a doctor’s First Amendment rights are subordinate to a woman’s right to abortion.
8) Turton v. Frenchtown (December 11) – A federal court ruled in favor of an elementary student who’d been told by school administrators that she couldn’t sing a religious song for the school talent show. The court determined that excluding speech on the premise that it might be divisive or controversial constituted unlawful viewpoint discrimination.
In addition to these laudable decisions, several other rulings from last year bode more ominously for those who cherish civil liberties and, particularly, religious freedom:
1) Gonzales v. Oregon (January 17) – The Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, denying the U.S. Attorney General’s right to use the Controlled Substances Act to obstruct physician-assisted suicides, which had been legalized by Oregon voters in 1994.
The Supreme Court has twice ruled that there is no Constitutional right to suicide – and would likely welcome a better challenge to the Oregon law. This case wasn’t it.
2) Harper v. Poway Unified School District (April 20) – The 9th Circuit upheld a San Diego high school’s decision to prohibit a student from expressing his views regarding homosexual behavior on a T-shirt.
With this decision (now awaiting review by the Supreme Court), the 9th Circuit – a case study in unbridled judicial activism – ramped up its assault on the First Amendment.
3) Britain v. Carvin (May 15)– The U.S. Supreme Court declines to hear a case challenging a Washington State Supreme Court ruling that granted a third party the right to sue for parental rights – despite the objections of the child’s own biological mother and father.
The high court’s decision opened a deluge of so-called “psychological parenting” cases, in effect promoting same-sex “marriages” and – more incredibly – undercutting the traditional natural and legal authority of birth parents
4) Faith Center Evangelical Ministries v. Glover (September 20) – Another 9th Circuit debacle, with the Court ruling that a public library was within its prerogatives to ban a religious group from meeting in a room designated for public use.
A slap in the face to equal access, and a deliberate effort to gag freedom of religious expression and assembly.
This year may see even more significant decisions, including critical rulings from the high court on abortion law and a sweeping array of same-sex “marriage” cases in state courts across the country. The stakes are getting higher, the battle is getting hotter, and the war goes on for the soul of our nation, and the future of our children.