In This Episode
- In a televised speech early Thursday Moscow-time, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a “special military operation” to protect Donbas, the Russian-backed separatist-held region in eastern Ukraine. Around the same time, explosions were heard in multiple cities throughout the country including Kyiv, Kramatorsk, which is in the disputed Donetsk region, Kharkiv in the northeast, and more.
- The Supreme Court said that it will take up a case that could allow businesses to use their religious beliefs as an excuse to refuse service to LGBTQ customers. Leah Litman, professor of law at the University of Michigan and one of the hosts of Crooked’s podcast about the Supreme Court, “Strict Scrutiny,” joins us to discuss the case and its broader implications.
- And in headlines: The trial began for the only officer facing criminal charges for Breonna Taylor’s death, Texas Governor Greg Abbott ordered state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for trans kids as ‘child abuse,’ and American truckers protesting COVID restrictions started their own Canada-inspired caravan.
- Resources for TX Trans Kids
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Gideon Resnick: It is Thursday, February 24th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I am Priyanka Aribindi, and this is What A Day, where we’re not sure that reports that Ivanka Trump may cooperate with the January 6th committee can be trusted because we are not sure that Ivanka Trump even exists anymore.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, the last we heard, she entered the metaverse and has not returned.
Priyanka Aribindi: Never saw her again.
Gideon Resnick: No. People were nicer in there, I think. On today’s show the trial began for the only officer charged in Breonna Taylor’s death. Plus, Texas Governor Greg Abbott has moved to classify giving any trans kid in need of gender affirming health care as quote, “child abuse.”
Priyanka Aribindi: But first, we have an update on the situation in Ukraine. Keep in mind that this is as we go to record a little after 10:30 p.m. Eastern on Wednesday. Things are changing really quickly. There are explosions being heard around the country in Ukraine right now, and I’m sure there will be many more new details by the time that you’re hearing this, but this is the latest as of now. In a televised speech early Thursday Moscow time, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a quote, “Special military operation” to protect Donbas, the Russian-backed separatist-held region and eastern Ukraine. Around the same time, explosions were heard in multiple cities throughout Ukraine, including Kiev, Kramatorsk, which is in the disputed Donetsk region, Kharkiv in the Northeast, and more. Here is a clip of CNN’s Matthew Chance, who we’ve spoken to multiple times reporting live from Kiev:
Matthew Chance: Oh! I say, well, I just heard a big bang right here behind me. I probably shouldn’t have done the live show here. There are big explosions taking place in Kiev right now.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we really hope he and everyone else are safe. Putin also said, according to the AP, that any foreign attempt to interfere with Russia would lead to quote, “consequences they have never seen.” Plus civilian aircrafts are now restricted from Ukraine’s airspace. President Biden’s initial response to the news was a statement, saying in part quote, “President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering. Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way. The world will hold Russia accountable.” He also said that he’d be meeting with G7 leaders and speaking more today.
Priyanka Aribindi: While all of this is happening, several government websites in Ukraine are down. While it’s unclear who took them down, suspicions are aimed at Russia. This is all fast-breaking, but we wanted to make sure that you know what we know as we go to record. Make sure to follow Pod Save America, Pod Save the World, and all the crooked feeds on social to stay up to date on the very latest news. We, of course, are going to continue following all of the updates out of Ukraine and Russia.
Gideon Resnick: Turning to some domestic news now, we wanted to follow up on a headline from yesterday where we talked about the Supreme Court saying that it will take up the case of a Colorado web designer who said that she is opposed to making wedding websites for same-sex couples and wants to post that language to her website. The woman in question, Lorie Smith, claims that the state’s law prohibiting businesses from discriminating against LGBTQ people actually stops her from posting that and therefore it violates her free speech and freedom of religion. Although in agreeing to hear the case, the Supreme Court said it will only tackle the free speech question. So we wanted to learn more about this case and its broader implications with Leah Litman, she is a professor of law at the University of Michigan and one of the hosts of Crooked’s podcast about the Supreme Court, “Strict Scrutiny.”
Priyanka Aribindi: OK, so this is not the first case, or even the first case in Colorado, where a business is refusing service to LGBTQ customers. So a lot of people listening to this probably remember Masterpiece Cakeshop, I believe it was called. The baker in that case refused to bake a wedding cake for a same-sex couple, citing their religious beliefs. That baker actually won their case in 2018. But I’m wondering, you know, why is this coming again if that was already decided by the Supreme Court, what makes this different?
Leah Litman: So in Masterpiece Cakeshop, the Supreme Court did not decide as a general matter whether it violated the First Amendment to require someone to speak against their beliefs or violated the free exercise clause to prohibit them from doing something that went against their religious beliefs. Instead, what the Supreme Court said in that case is the way that the Colorado Civil Rights Commission approached this particular case indicated that they were biased against the baker, who refused to bake the cake. In particular, some of the commissioners had made statements reflecting some bias against religion, but they didn’t establish a general rule that you can never apply anti-discrimination provisions to businesses engaged in speech or whatnot.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And I’m curious like, how did that decision, maybe knowingly or unknowingly at the time, open the door to this new challenge and potentially other challenges like it?
Leah Litman: At that time, the court was pretty different. You had Justice Kennedy, who was the author of major LGBTQ equality decisions like Obergefell versus Hodges decision recognizing a right to marriage equality. And so it was a different court that probably was unwilling to go for a very broad First Amendment rule that would vitiate protections for LGBTQ individuals. Whereas now it’s a very different court. This case was broad and largely manufactured because they knew it was a very different court. I mean, the plaintiff in this case, even though she says she’s engaged in the website business and doesn’t want to make wedding web sites for same-sex couples, technically, she’s never made a wedding website at all. You know, her profile thus far is largely limited to Republican politicians, but they wanted to get this case to the court because this is their court now.
Priyanka Aribindi: Based on what we know about the justices on this current court, what are people kind of expecting to come of this this time around?
Leah Litman: I don’t think anyone who cares about LGBTQ equality is expecting anything good. You know, in the Masterpiece Cakeshop decision you alluded to, some of the justices like Justice Gorsuch, basically already expressed their view that they believe the First Amendment did not allow states to prohibit discrimination against individuals who had some objection to LGBTQ equality or, you know, involve some sort of speech. I think people are quite nervous about what this decision is going to do. At a minimum, it is going to create a gaping hole in states’ anti-discrimination protections for those businesses and services who are engaged in speech. And the question is just what is the court going to do beyond that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And to that point, I was reading this article from Mark Joseph Stern at Slate, basically arguing that this could lead to broader discrimination from businesses on the basis of their speech was violated, essentially. His examples include a photographer with racist beliefs refusing service to an interracial couple, for example. Do you think the ramifications of this case could end up being that broad?
Leah Litman: So there is nothing about the theory that the plaintiff is advancing that would not apply to someone who opposes protections against racial discrimination. That is, if the government truly can’t compel you to speak against your beliefs or remain silent contrary to your beliefs, they can’t do so whether your beliefs are about sexual orientation, about sex, or about race. Now do I think this court would say in a case involving racial discrimination that a business isn’t required to comply with provisions involving racial discrimination? Maybe not. But actually in Masterpiece Cakeshop, that case was argued during the Trump administration and so you had the federal government lawyer who was representing the Trump administration, express the belief that the theory that they were arguing wouldn’t allow the government to apply a prohibition on sex discrimination against a business who objected to it. So there you actually had an advocate admitting that their theory would vitiate protections not just for LGBTQ individuals, but for, you know, men and women against sex discrimination as well.
Gideon Resnick: It sort of seems like every couple of weeks, like there’s another case that’s added to this upcoming Supreme Court docket that really sort of seems like it has ramifications for, like fundamentally reshaping the country. Is your sense that this upcoming term is going to potentially have that kind of impact?
Leah Litman: No, I think your perception is completely accurate. I think this term has a lot of cases that could refashion the state of the country in dramatic ways. I think the court has already decided cases that are refashioning the country in dramatic ways. You know, the court allowed Texas to continue to enforce its notorious SB8 law that has since September 2021, effectively ended access to safe and legal abortion in Texas, with dramatic and negative consequences for many people in that state. And it has basically encouraged other states to enact similar laws, not only about abortion, but about other topics as well. So we’ve seen states consider laws that allow you to sue teachers who teach critical race theory. We see states considering legislation that would allow you to sue individuals for providing gender-affirming care to transgender individuals. And they are happening because the Supreme Court basically greenlighted them. They have on their docket a case that would potentially overrule Roe vs. Wade. They have a major case involving the Second Amendment and the ability of states to regulate guns. They will decide a major case about the federal government’s ability to address the looming crisis of climate change. Next term, they’ve already got on their docket affirmative action. They are going to keep adding more. This is a court that feels no sense of humility about its role in government, about its role in society, and they feel like there’s no prospect of any checks on them from another branch of government. And so they are emboldened and they will continue to act as they have.
Gideon Resnick: Oh. Deep breath.
Leah Litman: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: That’s, I mean, that was my sense, and it’s not great to hear it, but thank you.
Leah Litman: Sorry.
Gideon Resnick: Well, thank you so much for joining us. We really appreciate it.
Leah Litman: Yeah, of course.
Priyanka Aribindi: We are definitely going to be talking more to Leah in the future about all of this and everything else that SCOTUS is set to talk about in the next year. You can hear more from her on Strict Scrutiny the newest pod in the Crooked family wherever you get your podcasts. That is the latest from now. We will be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.
Gideon Resnick: The trial for the only officer facing criminal charges for Breonna Taylor’s death in 2020 began yesterday. Former Kentucky Officer Brett Hankison is charged with three counts of wanton endangerment, a felony that’s punishable by up to five years in prison. During the opening statement, the prosecution said the charges focused on Hankison’s decision to fire blindly through Taylor’s apartment, endangering her neighbors. He fired 10 shots near a side door during the botched raid. None of them into Taylor’s apartment and none of them hitting Taylor. Meanwhile, in the case of George Floyd’s murder, a jury began to deliberate in the federal civil rights case against three of the former Minneapolis police officers connected to his killing. Derek Chauvin already pleaded guilty to the federal charges that he faced last December, but the other officers are charged with failing to give Floyd medical aid and failing to intervene. They pleaded not guilty, and they also face a state trial later this year for aiding and abetting in Floyd’s murder.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s an interesting plea for, you know, something that we all saw. But sure, I guess. The future recipient of whatever you call the opposite of a GLAD award, Texas Governor Greg Abbott, ordered a state agencies to investigate gender-affirming care for trans kids as quote, “child abuse” on Tuesday. This came a day after State Attorney General Ken Paxton wrote an opinion saying that this kind of medical care to minors is considered abuse under state law. The AG ordered providers to halt medical care, like gender-affirming surgeries, as well as puberty blockers, which temporarily pause puberty. Governor Abbott then sent a letter to the state’s Department of Family and Protective Services to say that doctors, social workers, teachers, or really anyone, must report any known instance of a minor getting gender-affirming care or face criminal penalties. It’s unclear for now who will enforce Abbott’s orders, as Paxton’s opinion is legally non-binding. Some county and district attorneys have said that they won’t follow the guidance, but the uncertainty that this order creates and its effects on the health of trans kids and their families cannot be overstated. For these families, we’re going to put a link in our show notes to some of the resources that Crooked has put together to give you all some help. This is just horrifying and devastating, and I really can’t say that enough.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it says something that the state is in open rebellion in a lot of cases against most of the insane things that this guy is concocting.
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly.
Gideon Resnick: It’s atrocious. Americans are borrowing from Canadian culture, and not the good parts like respect for Jean Jackets, a truckers in the U.S. protesting COVID restrictions started their own Canada-inspired caravan, where they plan to get to D.C. next week and shut down the Capital Beltway. The self-called the “People’s Convoy” kicked off its cross-country trek yesterday in Adelanto, California, that is just northeast of L.A., with over two dozen semis and several more pickups and RVs in tow. It’ll join up with other groups along the way. Some vehicles might arrive early enough to be in Washington during Biden’s State of the Union address on March 1st. But they will have a hard time getting a seat if they are trucks—that’s just a matter of space issues. The protesters will be met by about 400 unarmed National Guard troops that the Pentagon will deploy starting this Saturday to help with traffic. Hopefully, the people’s convoy doesn’t get as violent as the hundreds of demonstrators in New Zealand who have been protesting the country’s own COVID rules. On Monday, some protesters threw feces at the police, and the next day, one driver tried to ram their car into a group of officers. Listen, as an outsider, it seems like the New Zealand COVID rules have been working like a charm compared to other places.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I don’t really understand the bit about the feces there. I’m just picturing Joe Biden delivering the State of the Union in a monster truck arena, and I’m actually really enjoying it. I think that could be fun. Fun addition. Spice things up a little bit.
Gideon Resnick: Fun for all parties.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just a suggestion from the WAD squad. Apparently concerned that his party’s odds in the midterms are too good, a prominent Senate Republican has announced an election agenda that would raise taxes for millions of low-paid Americans. The man is the one and only Senator Rick Scott of Florida, the Chairman of the National Republican Senatorial Committee. On Tuesday, he unveiled his 11 point plan to quote, “Rescue America” which describes its own objectives as quote, “not for the faint of heart,” and along with several standout items like banning the use of tax dollars for diversity training, eliminating the education department, finishing the wall and naming it after Donald Trump, the plan also sets a goal of requiring every American to pay income taxes. About half of the people in this country currently do not pay income taxes because they do not earn enough and may receive tax credits. Some of those people may even be the hard-working salt of the Earth patriots whose support Republicans want. Scott’s plan illustrates exactly why Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has refused to release an election agenda, preferring instead to run against Democratic priorities and promising to reveal his party’s own priorities for Congress quote, “When we take it back.”—Sure. All right, then. Already, Senate Democrats have seized on Scott’s plan, to hit back at Republicans. For their part other Senate Republicans have basically let Scott’s plan lie, either because they’re faint of heart or because they know that it’s politically pretty shitty.
Gideon Resnick: Right. Like in 2012, if you thought Mitt Romney was a real salt of the Earth gentlemen with what he was talking about, let me introduce you to our guy, Rick.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So like if you call that like a foot in mouth, like what do you call this? Where it was like, you’re not speaking off the cuff or anything, like you wrote down an 11-point plan and published it, and now it’s everywhere.
Gideon Resnick: Typed it out. Somebody looked at it at least. Maybe there is some proofreading involved. Yeah, I don’t know. This is, doesn’t seem great to be the working man’s party and being like, We’re going to tax you if you don’t make any money.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it would be a real shame if that message got spread around everywhere.
Gideon Resnick: And those are the headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: One more thing before we go. If you are in New York, you can catch me and Gideon live and in person tomorrow at On Air Fest. We will be doing a live version of WAD. We will put some details in our socials. But we’re hoping we’ll see some friendly faces there. So come out.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, what are you doing on your Friday morning, if not listening to live news?
Priyanka Aribindi: It’ll be fun. It’ll be fun. Take a sick day. .
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Call out. Who cares? It doesn’t matter. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, respect jean jackets, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading, and not just 11-point plans that immediately backfire like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I am Priyanka Aribindi.
Gideon Resnick: I am Gideon Resnick.
[together] And someone find Ivanka Trump!
Priyanka Aribindi: You know what? She hasn’t entered my mind in like the last year, and I kind of resent this podcast for bringing her back here.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just a little bit.
Gideon Resnick: I’m steamed. Pissed. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstei0n, and our executive producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.