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Dozens of legal briefs supporting fired funeral director Aimee Stephens at the Supreme Court use “she” and “her” to refer to the transgender woman.

So does the appeals court ruling in favor of Stephens that held that workplace discrimination against transgender people is illegal under federal civil rights law.

But in more than 110 pages urging the Supreme Court to reverse that decision, the Trump administration and the Michigan funeral home where Stephens worked avoid gender pronouns, repeatedly using Stephens’ name.

Stephens’ case is one of two major fights over LGBT rights that will be argued at the high court on Oct. 8. The other tests whether discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation also violates the provision of the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964, known as Title 7, that prohibits employers from discriminating on the basis of sex. The cases are expected to be decided by next spring, during the presidential election campaign.

Decisions about gender pronouns may seem minor, but they appear to reflect the larger issues involved in this high-stakes battle.

John Bursch, the Alliance Defending Freedom lawyer who will argue on behalf of Harris Funeral Homes, wrote, “Out of respect for Stephens and following this Court’s lead in Farmer v. Brennan ... Harris tries to avoid use of pronouns and sex-specific terms when referring to Stephens.” Farmer v. Brennan was a 1994 decision that did not use gender pronouns to describe a transsexual prison inmate who had been assaulted by other inmates.

The administration’s court filing arguing that Title 7 “does not prohibit discrimination against transgender persons based on their transgender status” offers no explanation for the absence of gender pronouns for Stephens. A Justice Department spokeswoman did not respond to an email seeking comment.

“It’s sad that neither the funeral home nor the Department of Justice can bring themselves to be minimally respectful of Aimee. But the real tragedy is that our government is urging the Supreme Court to rule that firing workers because they are transgender is perfectly legal,” said James Esseks, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender & HIV Project. The ACLU represents Stephens at the Supreme Court.

Many organizations, including The Associated Press, use the gender pronouns an individual prefers.

That was the case when the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Stephens’ favor. “We refer to Stephens using female pronouns, in accordance with the preference she has expressed,” Judge Karen Moore wrote.


An Australian appeals court Wednesday upheld convictions against Cardinal George Pell, the most senior Catholic to be found guilty of sexually abusing children, in a decision cheered by scores of abuse survivors and victims’ advocates demonstrating outside the court.

A unanimous jury in December found Pope Francis’ former finance minister guilty of molesting two 13-year-old choirboys in Melbourne’s St. Patrick’s Cathedral more than two decades ago. The Victoria state Court of Appeal rejected his appeal in a 2-1 ruling, with the court’s chief justice saying the majority found Pell’s accuser to be a compelling “witness of truth.”

Pell’s lawyers will examine the judgment and consider an appeal to the High Court, Australia’s final arbiter, his spokeswoman Katrina Lee said. “Cardinal Pell is obviously disappointed with the decision,” her statement said.

The Vatican noted Pell had always maintained his innocence and had a right to appeal. It said its own investigation into Pell would await the outcome of any final appeal in Australia.

″.... the Holy See confirms its closeness to the victims of sexual abuse and its commitment to pursue, through the competent ecclesiastical authorities, those members of the clergy who commit such abuse,” a Vatican statement said, adding it respected the Australian judicial system.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference said all Australians must be equal under the law and it accepted the verdict.

“I respectfully receive the court’s decision and I encourage everyone to do the same,” Melbourne Archbishop Peter Comensoli said in a statement.

Pell was sentenced to six years in prison in March and is no longer a member of Pope Francis’ Council of Cardinals or a Vatican official. Prime Minister Scott Morrison said soon after the appeal was rejected that Pell would be stripped of his Order of Australia honor.

Pell, 78, showed no emotion when Chief Justice Anne Ferguson read the verdict to a packed courtroom but bowed his head moments later. He wore a cleric’s collar but not his cardinal’s ring. Pell had arrived at the court in a prison van and was handcuffed as he was led away by a guard.

Clerical sexual abuse and the Catholic Church’s handling of such cases worldwide have thrown Francis’ papacy into turmoil.

In a little more than a year, the pope has acknowledged he made “grave errors” in Chile’s worst cover-up, Pell was convicted of abuse, a French cardinal was convicted of failing to report a pedophile, and a third cardinal, former U.S. church leader Theodore McCarrick, was defrocked after a Vatican investigation determined he molested children and adults.


South Africa’s Equality Court on Wednesday restricted the display of the country’s old apartheid-era flag, ruling that its gratuitous use amounts to hate speech and racial discrimination.

Judge Phineas Mojapelo said the ruling was not a complete ban, saying use of the flag is protected by law for artistic, academic, journalistic or other purposes deemed in the public interest.

The judge criticized those who continued to wave the apartheid-era flag.

“Those who display the old flag choose deliberately to not only display the old flag, but also consciously and deliberately choose to not display the new, multiracial flag,” said Mojapelo. “They choose oppression over liberation.”

He said those who publicly display the flag should not be arrested, but should face deterrents such as fines or terms of community service.

The orange, white and blue flag of South Africa’s previous white-minority regime, which enforced the system of racial discrimination known as apartheid, was replaced by a new flag when the country achieved majority-rule democracy in 1994.

However, some conservatives and right-wing groups continued to display the apartheid-era flag, notably at political gatherings or sometimes during rugby matches.


The lawyer for U.S. rapper A$AP Rocky says he is “disappointed” by the decision of a Stockholm court to find his client guilty of assault for his role in a June 30 street brawl in the city.

Slobodan Jovicic says he had hoped for a “complete acquittal.”

Jovicic told reporters that it was too early to say whether the ruling from the Stockholm District Court will be appealed.

A Swedish court that found American rapper A$AP Rocky guilty of assault for his role in a June 30 street brawl in Stockholm says he and his two bodyguards “assaulted the victim by hitting and kicking him as he lay on the ground.”

During the trial, prosecutors played video footage that showed the rapper, whose real name is Rakim Mayers, throwing a young man to the ground.

Per Lennerbrant, the presiding judge, told a news conference that “the evidence in the case has been complex.”

The victim, 19-year-old Mustafa Jafari, was struck in the back of the head with a bottle but “it could not be established by whom,” he said, adding that “this has affected the assessment of the seriousness of the crime.”

The three avoided prison sentences. They were given conditional sentences and also ordered to a pay a total of 12,500 kronor ($1,307) in compensation.



Lawyers for a Maryland man whose murder conviction was chronicled in the hit podcast "Serial" are asking the Supreme Court to step into the case.

Lawyers for defendant Adnan Syed say in court papers Monday that the justices should order a new trial for Syed and reverse a Maryland court ruling against him. Syed claims his trial lawyer violated his constitutional right to competent representation because she failed to investigate an alibi witness.

Syed is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2000 of strangling 17-year-old Hae Min Lee and burying her body in a Baltimore park. Syed and Lee were high-school classmates who had dated.

In its debut 2014 season, the "Serial" podcast shined a spotlight on the case that led to renewed court proceedings.


Court proceedings against a 19 year-old British woman who faces a public nuisance charge for falsely accusing 12 Israelis of rape have been adjourned until Aug. 27 in order to give her new legal team time to prepare their defense.

A defense lawyer told a Paralimni court judge Monday that the defense team is waiting for a reply from Cyprus' attorney general to a written request seeking authorization for U.K. lawyer Lewis Power Q.C. to also represent the British woman along with Cypriot lawyer Nicoletta Charalambidou.

The British woman's former lawyer resigned because of a "serious disagreement" with his client. His resignation followed U.K. media reports that the woman claimed she was forced by Cypriot investigators to retract her original rape report. Cypriot police denied the allegation.



A federal appeals court has expanded a lawsuit by minor league baseball players alleging they are being paid less than minimum wage.

Players sued major league teams in February 2014, claiming most earn less than $7,500 annually in violation of several laws. Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero granted class-action status to a California class of players in March 2017, but denied the status to Arizona and Florida classes.

In a 2-1 decision Friday, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said class action status should be given to the Arizona and Florida classes, too, and sent the case back to U.S. District Court for additional proceedings.

Circuit Judges Richard A. Paez and Michael R. Murphy, both appointed by President Bill Clinton, voted to expand the classes in a decision written by Paez. Circuit Judge Sandra S. Ikuta, appointed by President George W. Bush, dissented and said the District Court erred in granting class-action status to the California class without completing an analysis of California’s choice-of-law rules.

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