WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 07: Eddie Reynoso of San Diego, California, attaches an American flag his chair while waiting in line outside the U.S. Supreme Court building for the chance to attend Tuesday's arguments during the court's new term October 07, 2019 in Washington, DC. In place outside the court since Saturday night, Reynoso is first in line to hear Tuesday's arguments in Bostock v. Clayton Co., GA, where the justices will consider whether employers may fire employees for being gay or transgender. With Chief Justice John Roberts in the lead, the court is scheduled to hear cases involving gun control, abortion, L.G.B.T. rights and immigration during this term. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The Jolt: A Clayton County case, the U.S. Supreme Court and the meaning of ‘sex’

One of your Insiders will be at the U.S. Supreme Court this morning as the justices consider three LGBTQ workplace discrimination cases that are expected to produce a blockbuster ruling later this term. As our colleague Bill Rankin reported this weekend, Doraville man Gerald Bostock is at the heart of one of the three cases.

A quick primer: Bostock claims he was fired from his job as a Clayton County child welfare official because he’s gay. He says the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars employment discrimination due to race, color, religion, sex and national origin, covers sexual orientation as well. An Atlanta federal appeals court ruled against him, and Clayton County is asking the high court to uphold the decision.

At bottom is the question of whether the legal meaning of word “sex,” as used by Congress some 55 years ago, has changed to also cover LGBT rights -- something both sides agree wasn’t at issue at the time, given that Georgia and many other states had criminalized same-sex relations. From the AJC’s Rankin:

In their legal briefs, Bostock’s lawyers argue that workplace discrimination based on a man’s sexual orientation occurs when an employer insists on traditional sex roles and behavioral stereotypes. “It is disparate treatment of an employee that would not occur ‘but for’ his sex,’” they said.

Bostock’s case is being coupled with that of Donald Zarda, a former skydiving instructor, as well as Aimee Stephens, a transgender woman who said she was fired by a Michigan funeral home after she told her boss she was transitioning from male to female.

The Trump administration has sided against Bostock, Zarda and Stephens and argued that Congress and businesses – not the courts – are best suited to decide on employment discrimination issues. They’re joined by a trio of Georgia GOP congressmen: Rick Allen, Jody Hice and Doug Collins. Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms and Clarkston mayor and U.S. Sen. candidate Ted Terry have signed onto a legal brief backing Bostock, Zarda and Stephens. 

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Johnny Isakson is among the Senate Republicans urging President Donald Trump to reconsider his move to withdraw American forces from Syria. 

The retiring senator, who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told WABE that the White House should "revisit its approach to this very unstable region of the world." We've heard crickets from other Georgia Republicans voters have sent to Washington.

Many words were spilled on Monday over whether abandonment of the Kurds would pry Republicans in Congress away from Trump.

Less attention has been given to the fact that the president’s strongest group of supporters, white conservative evangelical Christians, are also coming out against Trump’s latest foreign policy move. A line from a Family Research Council broadside:

It is an oft-overlooked story that in the wake of ISIS's genocide, the Kurdish-led SDF established a semi-autonomous area in Northeast Syria in which religious freedom flourished and religious minorities were protected. Pluralism thrived and democracy began to gain a foothold. This area stood in stark contrast to the surrounding countries where religious persecution is rampant.

And the Rev. Pat Robertson, the televangelist and former GOP presidential candidate, said Trump is “in danger of losing the mandate of heaven” over decision. From USA Today:

Calling Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan a dictator and a thug, Robertson said that he is “absolutely appalled that the United States is going to betray those democratic forces in northern Syria, that we are possibly going to allow the Turkish to come in against the Kurds.”

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The above makes this more relevant: 58% of Americans say the U.S. House was correct in launching an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump for his attempts to pressure the government of Ukraine into investigating a potential political rival, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll. Thirty-eight percent opposed the move. More from the Post:

Among all adults, 49 percent say the House should take the more significant step to impeach the president and call for his removal from office. Another 6 percent say they back the start of the inquiry but do not favor removing Trump from office, with the remainder undecided about the president’s ultimate fate. The results among registered voters are almost identical.

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On March 1, 2016, Republicans in Georgia held their presidential primary. Businessman and TV presence Donald Trump won with a plurality of 38.8% of ballots cast. U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida came in second with 24.5%, followed by U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas at 23.6%.

According to the rules at the time, Trump was awarded 42 of Georgia’s bound delegates to the national convention in Cleveland. But Rubio won 16 delegates, and Cruz was given 18. (Though Rubio surpassed him in the statewide vote, Cruz came in second in more congressional districts than Rubio, and thus won more delegates.)

During the Cleveland convention, Rubio was indulged with a 90-second video aimed at delegates. Cruz negotiated a 20-minute speech that was highlighted by his refusal to endorse Trump by name. "I am not in the habit of supporting people who attack my wife and attack my father," Cruz said the next day.

That kind of display won’t be allowed in Charlotte next year. As posted earlier this morning:

President Donald Trump’s campaign outlined efforts Monday to change rules at party conventions in dozens of states, including Georgia, to weaken a potential GOP insurrection before it can start.

Three senior Trump campaign officials said on a conference call that they pressed party officials in 37 states to make it harder for a Republican primary opponent to emerge at the nominating convention in Charlotte in August 2020…

It turns out that the local situation was adjusted months ago:

In Georgia, that effort unfolded in May when the state GOP quietly adopted a rule that makes it harder for lesser-known candidates to win delegates.

Under the rules, a candidate who wins a plurality of votes statewide automatically captures all of the statewide and at-large delegates. And the candidate who wins a plurality in each congressional district automatically captures all three delegates from the district.

The previous rules used in the 2016 election let candidates capture at least a handful of delegates if they won 20% of the vote statewide or, in some cases, if they finished in a strong second-place in a congressional district.

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According to the Marietta Daily Journal, the Cobb County Board of Education has decided to settle a lawsuit filed by an assistant principal who alleged that the school district punished her for teaching yoga-based relaxation techniques at her elementary school.

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The Georgia GOP raised more than $360,000 for its big annual fundraiser, which attracted more than 550 attendees, including Gov. Brian Kemp, House Speaker David Ralston, Attorney General Chris Carr and other Republican leaders. The Democratic Party of Georgia holds its big cash-raising event later this month. 

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One suspects that U.S. Rep. Doug Collins might be lobbying for a promotion. In a text to one of your Insiders on Monday, Collins opened up a new line of attack on his House Judiciary Committee colleague, Democrat Lucy McBath. The Marietta Democrat hasn’t endorsed impeachment outright, but has sought to raise campaign cash off her vote to support the opening of an impeachment inquiry. 

“In D.C., she says she is in favor of impeachment inquiry with her Judiciary vote - which in reality was a sham that did nothing. The reality is she wants it both ways,” texted Collins, a Gainesville Republican. “She is for impeachment but doesn’t want to tell her district. She needs to come clean and quit the deception.”

Collins has applied to Gov. Brian Kemp for that appointment to replace the retiring U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson.

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Our AJC colleague Mark Niesse reports that a voting precinct moved to a police station in the city of Jonesboro has prompted from civil rights groups that say the move will suppress turnout.

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Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis has endorsed former Columbus mayor Teresa Tomlinson in the Democratic race to thwart U.S. Sen. David Perdue’s reelection bid. “The progress in Columbus, Georgia during her tenure was remarkable. We need Teresa to bring that same tenacity and leadership to the U.S. Senate,” Davis says via press release.

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State Rep. Josh McLaurin, D-Sandy Springs, has endorsed U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren in the race for president. 

McLaurin said the economy should reward hard work and sacrifice not “those who move large stacks of money around, from pile A to pile B.”

“It’s also how unrepresentative candidates win elections and how lobbyists and special interests control government officials. Meanwhile, people suffer,” he said. “For many people in my community, the system is broken. I’m excited about Senator Warren because she has a plan to fix it.”

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Nabilah Islam, the former Democratic fundraiser running for Congress in the Seventh Congressional District, picked up an endorsement from former state Sen. Vincent Fort. 

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On a that note, Nabilah Islam is one of about a dozen contenders seeking to replace U.S. Rep. Rob Woodall when he retires in late 2020. One of the last major votes of the Lawrenceville Republican's D.C. career could be the United States-Mexico-Canada Trade Agreement, which is still the subject of negotiation between the White House and House Democrats. Consider Woodall an emphatic 'yes' vote. From an op-ed in the AJC: 

"I can safely say that the USMCA is the most successful trade deal of my adult lifetime, and I believe it will be one of, if not the most, beneficial trade deals ever for the State of Georgia.... The USMCA will give us more robust access to two of our top five trading partners, which will support our workers and manufacturers even more. That economic growth will lead to greater foreign investments in our state and national economies and will create thousands of jobs for Americans."

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