A gay Nigerian inmate said he was just trying to hug a prison guard, but he was charged with assault after the guard fell. In jury selection for the case, the dismissal of a lesbian may change whether sexual orientation is protected by the constitution.
The public defenders for Daniel Osazuwa in Pasadena, California argued that the prosecution should not have been able to strike a lesbian woman from the jury, and that "gays and lesbians should be added to the classes of citizens considered vulnerable to discrimination and accorded better protection of their rights," according to the Los Angeles Times.
The prosecutor claimed that she had been dismissed not for being gay but for having close Nigerian friends. Still might alter the course of history! The Times says the case, "if successful, could extend constitutional protection from discrimination to homosexuality along with race, creed and gender." It's been illegal for decades to dismiss a juror on the basis of race.
Significantly, the government's position on whether this is a valid claim has shifted in the past few months. According to MetroWeekly, this process is indicative of that shift, which occurred over the duration of the case:
The U.S. Supreme Court has not made a determination about the level of scrutiny to apply to sexual orientation classifications, even in the two cases in which it struck down anti-LGBT laws — Romer v. Evans and Lawrence v. Texas. On Feb. 23, though, Attorney General Eric Holder detailed in a six-page letter his and President Barack Obama's determination that some level of heightened scrutiny should apply.
That would be the same letter in which Holder indicated that the administration would cease to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court. In acknowledgment of that move to heightened scrutiny, the assistant U.S. attorney pivoted slightly in a July 1 filing.
Still, the prosecutor told the appeals panel yesterday that the court should stay away from trying to figure out whether sexual orientation is covered under the Equal Protection Clause of the constitution, since that's the Supreme Court's job. It'll be at least a few weeks before we hear whether the three-judge panel (of Carter and Clinton appointees) agrees.