Supreme Court Backs Religiously-based Objections to Federal Law for Corporations

In a 5-4 decision issued June 30, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a for-profit corporation can be exempted from laws on the basis of religious belief. The decision came in a case (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby) in which the owners of an arts and crafts company, Hobby Lobby, objected to federal requirements that its insurance plans cover contraception.

The decision was based on an interpretation of a federal law, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, not the First Amendment to the Constitution.

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Same-sex Couples Treated as Married for Federal Tax Purposes

Same-sex couples that are legally married in jurisdictions that recognize their marriages will be treated as married for federal tax purposes, according to a ruling issued by the IRS and Treasury Department on August 28.

According to the IRS/Treasury announcement:

Under the ruling, same sex couples will be treated as married for all federal tax purposes, including income and gift and estate taxes. The ruling applies to all federal tax provisions where marriage is a factor, including filing status, claiming personal and dependency exemptions, taking the standard deduction, employee benefits, contributing to an IRA, and claiming the earned income tax credit or child tax credit.

The decision comes two months after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that married same-sex couples were entitled to federal benefits.

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NYC “Stop and Frisk” Policy Ruled Unconstitutional

U.S. District Court Judge Shira A. Scheindlin ruled New York City’s “Stop and Frisk” policy unconstitutional in an August 12 decision.

According to city officials, police stops have helped sharply curb major crimes in New York, including murders. But Scheindlin ruled that the policy violated the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures by the government, and the 14th Amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

About 83 percent of all stops between 2004 and 2012 involved blacks and Hispanics, although only about half of the city’s residents fall into these two groups.

Under a 1968 Supreme Court decision, Terry v. Ohio, stopping and frisking is not inherently unconstitutional. It is allowed under certain conditions. Scheindlin directed the city to impose new limits on the policy, including establishing a pilot program where some police officers will wear cameras to record such stops. The ruling also directs the city to solicit public comments on how to reform its tactics.

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