CVIndependent

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Last updateFri, 16 Sep 2016 12pm

Reuters

(Reuters)—A U.S. appeals court, for the first time ever, ruled earlier this week that federal civil rights law protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees from discrimination in the workplace.

The ruling from the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago represents a major legal victory for the gay rights movement.

In its 8-3 decision, the court bucked decades of rulings that gay people are not protected by the milestone civil rights law, because they are not specifically mentioned in it.

“For many years, the courts of appeals of this country understood the prohibition against sex discrimination to exclude discrimination on the basis of a person’s sexual orientation,” Chief Judge Diane Wood wrote for the majority. “We conclude today that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is a form of sex discrimination.”

The ruling also allows a lawsuit to go forward in Indiana, where plaintiff Kimberly Hively said she lost her community college teaching job because she is lesbian.

“I have been saying all this time that what happened to me wasn’t right and was illegal,” Hively said in a statement released by the gay rights legal organization Lambda Legal, which represents her.

In its decision to reinstate Hively’s 2014 lawsuit, which was thrown out at the local level in Indiana, the Court of Appeals ruled that protections against sex discrimination in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protect people from job discrimination based on their sexual orientation.

In so doing, the full appeals court overruled a decision by a smaller panel of its judges to uphold the district court’s decision in the college’s favor.

To reach its conclusion, the court examined 20 years of rulings by the U.S. Supreme Court on issues related to gay rights, including the high court’s 2015 ruling that same-sex couples have a right to marry, Wood wrote.

The Supreme Court has not yet ruled on the question of whether the Civil Rights Act protects gays and lesbians, she wrote.

The three dissenting judges said the majority had inappropriately used its own power to change the civil rights law, which does not explicitly protect people on the basis of sexual orientation, and which for decades has been interpreted as excluding that protection.

“Today the court jettisons the prevailing interpretation and installs the polar opposite,” Judge Diane Sykes wrote in dissent.

In her lawsuit, Hively said that Ivy Tech Community College in South Bend passed her over for a permanent position and refused to renew her contract as an adjunct professor after school administrators learned she is a lesbian.

On Tuesday, Ivy Tech spokesman Jeff Fanter said the college had not done that.

“Ivy Tech Community College rejects discrimination of all types,” Fanter said in a statement emailed to Reuters. “Sexual orientation discrimination is specifically barred by our policies.”

The college would not ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the decision, Fanter said, but instead would argue in District Court that it had not discriminated against Hively as the lawsuit goes forward.

(Reporting by Joseph Ax; additional reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento; writing by Sharon Bernstein; editing by G Crosse and Leslie Adler)

LAKE ELSINORE (Reuters)—As Coachella Valley residents know, Southern California’s deserts and hillsides are ablaze with color after a wet winter spurred what scientists say is the biggest wildflower bloom in years.

Golden California poppies, the state’s flower, blanket hillsides along busy high desert roads and freeways around Lake Elsinore in Riverside County. At Anza-Borrego Desert State Park in San Diego County, the desert blooms with purple Canterbury Bells, red Monkey Flower, white Desert Lily and more poppies.

“Plentiful rains in December, January and February have encouraged the development of a spectacular showing of annual plants in the flower fields north of town, along trails in western canyons, and even in the badlands,” naturalists wrote on Anza-Borrego’s website.

Before the state’s devastating five-year drought, Southern California families often made an annual trek to see wildflowers at Anza-Borrego and other destinations—some as close as a freeway exit in the desert. Now that storms have replenished dry desert land, the tradition has returned in force.

So many people are visiting Anza-Borrego, the state’s largest park, that officials on Tuesday warned of traffic jams and urged flower-lovers to bring plenty of water to avoid dehydration in the hot, dry weather expected this week.

On the steep hillsides of Walker Canyon in Lake Elsinore, people snapped pictures of wildflowers and gathered blooms as they strolled through the gently waving sea of color. Children played and dogs romped through the high stands of poppies as traffic whizzed by on the freeway below.

(Reporting by Alan Devall in Lake Elsinore, California and Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; Writing by Sharon Bernstein; Editing by Dan Grebler)

LOS ANGELES (Reuters)—Lady Gaga will step in for Beyonce at this year’s Coachella music festival after the R&B singer, who is pregnant with twins, dropped out of her headlining slot due to doctor’s orders.

Gaga, 30, made the announcement late Tuesday, Feb. 28, on her social media pages with an image of the three-day lineup at the festival and her name at the top of the second day’s schedule, accompanied by the caption, “Let’s party in the desert!”

Beyonce, 35, was due to headline the annual Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival in Indio on April 15 and April 22. She pulled out last week, saying in a statement that she was “following the advice of her doctors to keep a less rigorous schedule in the coming months.”

Gaga’s Coachella headlining slot follows her performance at February’s Super Bowl, where she sang, danced and soared over the stage suspended on cables, delivering a flawless choreographed medley of her hits that include “Poker Face” and “Born This Way.”

The singer is also due to kick off her world tour in support of her latest album, last year’s Joanne, in August.

Coachella is the first major U.S. festival of the summer live music scene and hosts two consecutive weekends of the same lineup.

Beyonce and her rapper husband Jay Z, who have a 5year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, have not said when the twins are due. The singer said she’ll headline Coachella next year.

(Reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by David Gregorio)

(Reuters)—U.S. President Donald Trump's administration will begin rolling back Obama-era environmental regulations in an "aggressive way" as soon as next week, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency said on Saturdayadding he understood why some Americans want to see his agency eliminated completely.

"I think there are some regulations that in the near-term need to be rolled back in a very aggressive way. And I think maybe next week you may be hearing about some of those," EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt told the Conservative Political Action summit in Washington, D.C.

Pruitt added the EPA's focus on combating climate change under former President Barack Obama had cost jobs and prevented economic growth, leading many Americans to want to see the EPA eliminated completely.

"I think its justified," he said. "I think people across this country look at the EPA much like they look at the IRS. I hope to be able to change that."    

Pruitt was confirmed as EPA head last week. His appointment triggered an uproar among Democratic lawmakers and environmental advocates worried that he will gut the agency and re-open the doors to heavy industrial pollution. He sued the EPA more than a dozen times as his states' top attorney and has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change. 

But his rise to the head of the EPA has also cheered many Republicans and business interests that expect him to cut back red tape they believe has hampered the economy.

Trump campaigned on a promise to slash regulation to revive the oil and gas drilling and coal mining industries.


PUDDLES AND DRY CREEK BEDS

Pruitt mentioned three rules ushered in by Obama that could meet the chopping block early on: the Waters of the U.S. rule outlining waterways that have federal protections; the Clean Power Plan requiring states to cut carbon emissions; and the U.S. Methane rule limiting emissions from oil and gas installations on federal land.

A Trump official told Reuters late Friday that the president was expected to sign a measure as early as Tuesday aimed at rescinding the Waters of the U.S. rule.

Pruitt said in his comments to the CPAC summit that rule had "made puddles and dry creek beds across this country subject to the jurisdiction of Washington, D.C. That's going to change."

He also suggested longer-term structural changes were in store at the EPA. 

"Long-term, asking the question on how that agency partners with the states and how that affects the budget and how it effects the structure is something to work on very diligently," Pruitt said.

Like Trump, he said cutting regulation could be done in a way that does not harm water or air quality.

(Reporting by Richard Valdmanis in Boston; Editing by Marguerita Choy)