They say March comes in like a lion. This was definitely true in the legal world this week.
As 1819 News reported, three cases were on the docket that would have a major impact on the country. Being involved in two of those cases, I wanted to devote today’s op-ed to discussing their significance.
1. Rejecting the Equal Rights Amendment
The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit – often regarded as the second-highest court in the land – rejected an appeal attempting to resurrect the Equal Rights Amendment (“ERA”). In the 1970s, Congress passed the ERA, a proposed constitutional amendment providing that women have all the same rights as men, submitting it to the states. Because ERA proponents believe abortion is necessary to give women the same rights as men, opponents believe the ERA would create a constitutional right to abortion.
Congress imposed a deadline for ratification, and the ERA fell three votes short back in the 1980s. However, three new states voted to ratify it in 2017, and those states sued the National Archivist to recognize it as the 28th Amendment. Fortunately, the D.C. Circuit rejected that appeal on Tuesday.
Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall deserves a lot of credit for this, as he and four other attorneys general intervened in the suit. Most of the Republican attorneys general will usually go in together on a case, so it’s perplexing why more states did not join us here. It’s likely many of our allies did not want to be seen as opposing equal rights for women. Marshall, however, displayed political courage by doing the right thing.
Credit also goes to my client, Gregory Watson. In the 1980s Watson led the charge to ratify the 27th Amendment after nearly 200 years. ERA proponents hoped to replicate his success. Watson let me represent him before the D.C. Circuit to explain why this wasn’t the same: the 27th Amendment had no deadline, the ERA did.
It took nearly 50 years to get the Supreme Court to overrule Roe v. Wade. That success may have been short-lived had this case succeeded.
2. Religious Freedom in the Workplace
Second, many parties submitted briefs to the Supreme Court in Groff v. DeJoy, which could substantially strengthen religious freedom in the workplace. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 requires employers to grant religious accommodation requests unless doing so would pose an “undue hardship” on the employer. The Supreme Court held in the 1977 case Trans World Airlines v. Hardison that “undue hardship” existed if the employer had to bear any more than a de minimis cost to grant the accommodation.
You don’t need to be a lawyer to see that this doesn’t do justice to the statute. Both the text and spirit of the law suggest that an employer should be excused only if the burden is substantial.
If Groff overrules Hardison, Americans can enjoy far more religious freedom in the workplace than they do now. They will have greater chances of having a Sabbath. They will have a better chance of not getting fired for refusing to affirm someone’s pronouns against their beliefs. And people – like many of my clients – who have been fired for declining the COVID vaccine on religious grounds will be more likely to get justice.
3. Student Loan Forgiveness
Finally, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral argument this week concerning student loan forgiveness. Americans owe about $1.75 trillion in student loans. The Biden administration purported to forgive billions of that with the stroke of a pen. The question is whether it could do so without Congress’s approval, and the justices appeared skeptical that they could.
I am working very hard to pay back student loans. I would love a break. But the question is whether it’s right to take that burden off my shoulders and put it on others. I can’t get past the Eighth Commandment here: “Thou shalt not steal.” That’s what forcing other taxpayers to pay my bill against their will would be.
This isn’t just a matter of forgiving people who are having a hard time paying the bills; it’s about whether the bill should be transferred involuntarily to those who never agreed to the deal. Many of those people are struggling in this economy just like those of us dealing with student loans. Throwing our debt on them is wrong, both morally and legally. And the effects on our already fragile economy would be disastrous. We don’t need another 2008.
While I’m no prophet, I think we’ll see favorable outcomes in Groff and the student-loan case, just like we did in the ERA case. We should find out in June!
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty, a conservative nonprofit law firm that fights for limited government, free markets, and strong families in the courts. His column appears every Friday in 1819 News. The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author. The views and opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the policy or position of 1819 News. To comment, please send an email with your name and contact information to Commentary@1819News.com.
Don't miss out! Subscribe to our newsletter and get our top stories every weekday morning.