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By Jonathan Allen
WASHINGTON — Congress wanted to honor the ailing Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. President Donald Trump did not.
In extended remarks during a visit to Fort Drum in upstate New York to sign the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 — this year’s version of an annual bill that sets defense policy — Trump chose not to mention the former prisoner of war and Senate Armed Services Committee chairman who is battling brain cancer. He even omitted McCain’s name when citing the title of the bill.
The two men have long been fierce critics of each other, with McCain calling Trump’s supporters “crazies” in 2015 and Trump retaliating by questioning whether McCain, who was subjected to torture in a Vietnamese prison camp, is really a “war hero” because “he was captured.”
The snub at Fort Drum, home to the combat aviation brigade of the Army’s 10th Mountain Division, did not escape the notice of McCain’s allies.
“For those asking did I expect Trump to be an a—— today. No more than I expected it to be Monday,” Mark Salter, McCain’s longtime aide, wrote on Twitter.
McCain’s condition — dire enough that a recent HBO documentary on him was titled “John McCain: For Whom the Bell Tolls” — has not stopped Trump from deriding the Arizona senator at political rallies. Though Trump does not use his name, he tells crowds that he would have been able to repeal Obamacare if not for a thumbs-down sign from one senator — McCain.
The senator’s own statement included Trump’s name in the headline and in a preamble written by staff. But the words attributed to McCain did not.
“I’m very proud that the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019 has been signed into law,” he said.
America Ferrera, Eva Longoria and over 200 Latino artists ‘speak out loudly against hate’
Actresses Eva Longoria, America Ferrera and more than 200 other Latino artists and civil rights leaders on Friday penned a letter of support to the Latino community in the United States after a mass shooting in Texas and immigration raids in Mississippi.
Musicians Jennifer Lopez, Ricky Martin and Lin-Manuel Miranda gave their backing to the letter, which called on those outside the Latino community to “speak out loudly against hate.”
“If you are feeling terrified, heartbroken and defeated by the barrage of attacks on our community, you are not alone,” said the letter, addressed to the Querida Familia Latina (Dear Latino Family) and published in the New York Times, La Opinion and other newspapers.
The letter followed a shooting targeting Mexican-Americans and Mexicans in the predominantly Latino border city of El Paso, Texas on Aug. 3 that killed 22 people, as well as the arrest of nearly 700 people in immigration raids last week on seven agricultural processing plants in Mississippi.
Both followed accusations that President Donald Trump has stoked racial divisions with his rhetoric and his crackdown on immigration at the U.S. border with Mexico.
“We will not be broken. We will not be silenced. We will continue to denounce any hateful and inhumane treatment of our community. We will demand dignity and justice,” the letter said.
It called on allies of the Latino community to “speak out loudly against hate, to contribute your resources to organizations that support our community, and to hold our leaders accountable.”
Former “Desperate Housewives” star and the executive producer of ABC’s “Grand Hotel” Longoria said in a statement that the U.S. is facing “a moral crisis … and we chose to use this moment to raise our voices and speak up.”
The letter was signed by many of the leading Latino voices and activists in United States, including veteran labor leader Dolores Huerta, novelist Sandra Cisneros and Voto Latino political group president Maria Teresa Kumar.
Trans workers not protected by civil rights law, Trump admin tells Supreme Court
The Trump administration on Friday filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that transgender workers are not protected by federal civil rights law and can be fired because of their gender identity.
The brief was submitted in a case concerning Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who was fired from a Detroit funeral home after she informed her employer that she was beginning her gender transition. The case, R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes v. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, et al., is one of three cases concerning LGBTQ workers’ rights that the Supreme Court is expected to hear this fall.
The brief, submitted by Solicitor General Noel J. Francisco and other Department of Justice attorneys, argues that Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin, “does not bar discrimination because of transgender status.”
“In 1964, the ordinary public meaning of ‘sex’ was biological sex. It did not encompass transgender status,” the brief states. “In the particular context of Title VII — legislation originally designed to eliminate employment discrimination against racial and other minorities — it was especially clear that the prohibition on discrimination because of ‘sex’ referred to unequal treatment of men and women in the workplace.”
If the Supreme Court sides with the Trump administration, it will be overturning a decision by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which sided with Stephens in March 2018.
“Discrimination against employees, either because of their failure to conform to sex stereotypes or their transgender and transitioning status, is illegal under Title VII,” Judge Karen Nelson Moore wrote in the 6th Circuit’s decision. “The unrefuted facts show that the Funeral Home fired Stephens because she refused to abide by her employer’s stereotypical conception of her sex.”
Moore added that requiring the Christian business owner, Thomas Rost, “to comply with Title VII’s proscriptions on discrimination does not substantially burden his religious practice.”
Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), the conservative legal group that had petitioned the high court to hear the Stephens case, said the lower court overstepped its bounds by “redefin[ing]” the term “sex” in Title VII to “mean something other than what Congress clearly intended.” Just hours before the Trump administration submitted its brief, ADF submitted one of its own, arguing that “judicially rewriting sex discrimination in Title VII will spill over into other federal laws that prohibit sex discrimination.”
“It will deny women and girls fair opportunities to compete in sports, to ascend to the winner’s podium, and to receive critical scholarships,” the ADF brief states. “It will also require domestic-abuse shelters to allow men to sleep in the same room as female survivors of rape and violence. And it may dictate that doctors and hospitals provide transition services even in violation of their religious beliefs.”
In addition to Stephens’ case, the Supreme Court is set to hear two cases dealing with workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Those cases — Zarda v. Altitude Express and Bostock v. Clayton County — will be consolidated.
The Trump administration has made its position clear on the scope of sex discrimination in Title VII, so Friday’s amicus brief did not come as a surprise to those following the cases. In July 2017, the Department of Justice submitted an amicus brief with the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in the Zarda case opposing the extension of Title VII discrimination protections on the basis of sexual orientation. And in October 2018 — prior to the Supreme Court decision to hear the Stephens case — the DOJ filed a brief with the high court siding with the funeral home. In the Stephens case, the federal government is pitted against itself, since the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is a defendant in the case.
The Supreme Court will hear the cases next term, which begins in October.
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