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SCOTUS Rulings and Retirement: What It May Mean for Women

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When Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy announced his plans to retire this summer, most were not shocked, but some expressed fear and uncertainty about the future of the nation’s laws that have supported minorities and women.

For nearly three decades, Justice Kennedy, 81, a Republican, has provided critical swing votes on issues such as abortion and gay rights. Should President Donald Trump replace him with a more conservative Republican justice, prominent legal analysts, including CNN’s Jeffrey Toobin, predict the reversal of significant civil rights and social issue precedents, such as Roe vs. Wade that made abortion legal.

Also this week, the Supreme Court ruled in a 5-4 vote to allow President Trump’s ban of five Muslim-majority countries, including Somalia, Iran, Yemen, Syria and Chad. Since taking office in January 2017, the president has issued three variations of the travel ban after being struck down by lower courts, but he got handed this major policy victory on the third version. It was a defeat for Hawaii and other states that challenged the ban as unconstitutional.

The ruling issued on June 26 to uphold the travel ban, or what some would call the “Muslim ban,” has triggered controversy and debate across all media platforms. Upon looking through the #SCOTUS hashtag, one will come across tweets of both celebration and criticism.

The controversy of this decision (Hawaii vs. Trump) lays in the extent of the President’s discretion in deciding who can or cannot enter this country versus the possible violation of freedom of religion. Two of the dissenting votes came from Associate Justices Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer. Sotomayor was vocal about her dissenting opinion, as aforementioned on Twitter, stating that “the proclamation was motivated by anti-Muslim animus,” and, “masquerades behind a façade of national-security concerns.” Associate Justice Samuel Alito retorted that of the 50 Muslim-majority countries, only five were banned.

A major deciding factor in this ruling was the Immigration and Nationality Act, which came to be in 1952 amid fear of Communist influence during the Cold War. This law reads, in part, that, “[the president] may by proclamation, and for such period as he shall deem necessary, suspend the entry of all aliens or any class of aliens as immigrants or nonimmigrants, or impose on the entry of aliens any restrictions he may deem to be appropriate.”

Many Muslim Americans are now afraid to leave the U.S. to visit family or otherwise because they may not be able to return. For Muslim women who wear hijabs in public, this may ramp up confrontations from those who see them as “terrorists” or threats to American security in any way.

Women's March for Immigration

Women’s March in Washington on Thursday at the Senate’s Hart Office Building

In response to the Trump administration’s new stricter immigration policies, hundreds of women staged a sit-in on Thursday against family separation and detention while also demanding an end to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. This followed a protest marching in D.C. from Freedom Plaza to the Department of Justice to Congress. According to reports, more than 600 women have been arrested.

“This isn’t just a protest,”‘ read a statement from the Women’s March on Washington. “This is a movement, and we are fighting for our lives.”

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