Good news (for once): LGBTQ rights, social cost of carbon, and OH redistricting

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LGBTQ+ rights

A divided North Carolina Supreme Court ruled Friday that domestic violence protection orders in the state must apply to same-sex dating cases, making the state the last in the nation to equally apply the law to LGBTQ+ people.

Previously, Chapter 50B of the North Carolina statutory code only permitted married or divorced same-sex couples to seek a restraining order; same-sex couples who were dating or living together were barred from the court’s protection.

For purposes of this section, the term “personal relationship” means a relationship wherein the parties involved:

Are current or former spouses; Are persons of opposite sex who live together or have lived together; …Are current or former household members; Are persons of the opposite sex who are in a dating relationship or have been in a dating relationship.

In 2018, a woman in a same-sex dating relationship attempted to obtain a protective order against her partner. The Wake County District Court denied her request, twice, due to Chapter 50B. Judge Worley found the woman’s complaint credible, writing that the facts “would have supported the entry of a Domestic Violence Protective Order…had the parties been of opposite genders.”

On Friday, the four Democratic judges of the state’s Supreme Court upheld (pdf) an appeals court ruling that “the ‘same-sex’ or ‘opposite sex’ nature of their ‘dating relationship’ shall not be a factor in the decision to grant or deny a petitioner’s DVPO claim under the Act.” The three Republican judges on the bench dissented, explaining they would have overturned the appellate court’s opinion for technical reasons.

Social cost of carbon

The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals blocked a Trump-appointed judge’s order that prevented the federal government from considering the social cost of greenhouse gases when crafting rules and regulations.

The ‘social cost of carbon’ is an estimate of the economic damages of emitting a ton of carbon dioxide. Policymakers use the social cost of carbon to quantify the extra costs associated with carbon emissions that are not automatically reflected in market prices. The Obama administration had estimated the social cost of carbon at $43 a ton. Trump then lowered it to $3-$5 a ton, and Biden raised it to $51 a ton.

Republican states sued the Biden administration, arguing that Biden lacked the authority to raise the climate metric under the Constitution, which gives that power solely to Congress. Trump-appointee James Cain, of the Western District of Louisiana, agreed with the GOP and issued an injunction preventing the Biden administration from even considering the social cost of carbon.

On Wednesday, a three-judge panel (made up of two Obama judges and a G.W. Bush appointee) unanimously stayed Cain’s injunction (pdf). The court rejected the states’ argument that the higher social cost of carbon metric could cause them injury:

The Government Defendants are likely to succeed on the merits because the Plaintiff States lack standing. The Plaintiff States’ claimed injury is ‘increased regulatory burdens’ that may result from the consideration of [the social cost of greenhouse gases], and the Interim Estimates specifically. This injury, however, hardly meets the standards for [constitutional] standing because it is, at this point, merely hypothetical… The increased regulatory burdens the Plaintiff States fear will come from the Interim Estimates appear untraceable because agencies consider a great number of other factors in determining when, what, and how to regulate or take agency action…

Ohio redistricting

Meanwhile, in Ohio, the Supreme Court has once again refused to accept the Republican-drawn redistricting maps, saying it is “beyond a reasonable doubt that the main goal of the individuals who drafted [the state legislative map] was to favor the Republican Party and disfavor the Democratic Party.”

Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor, a Republican, was the deciding vote in a 4-3 decision. She writes (pdf):

The evidence shows that the map-drawing process for all three districting plans we have reviewed has been controlled by the Republican Party. The evidence shows that the individuals who controlled the map-drawing process exercised that control with the overriding intent to maintain as much of an advantage as possible for members of their political party. The commission has again adopted a plan in which a disproportionate number of toss-up districts are labeled Democratic-leaning…

Under the second revised plan, if the statewide vote split 50/50 for Democrats and Republicans, Democrats would be expected to win approximately 44 percent of the House seats. In contrast, Republicans would be expected to win 53 percent of the House seats…a 5 percent uniform swing in favor of the Republican Party across all districts would result in up to 23 additional Republican seats, while the same swing in favor of the Democratic Party would result in a gain of, at most, two seats.

Justices Sharon Kennedy and Pat DeWine (son of the Governor) dissented, arguing that the majority’s opinion creates “electoral chaos” by not accepting a map in time for the state’s primary election.

Justice Jennifer Brunner, a Democrat, rebutted the dissent in her concurring opinion: “This court is not a rubber stamp. By interpreting and enforcing the requirements of the Ohio Constitution, we do not create chaos or a constitutional crisis—we work to promote the trust of Ohio’s voters in the redistricting of Ohio’s legislative districts…”

The majority ordered the Redistricting Commission to come up with a fourth plan for the state’s legislative districts. The federal districts (for the U.S. House of Representatives) are also being reviewed by the court.