Headline Roundup: LGBT discrimination, ceasefire ends and California’s privacy laws

The Minnesota Daily asked University experts about some of the most important national and international headlines of the month so far.

Sarah Mai

Sarah Mai

by Jasmine Snow

LGBTQ+ Supreme Court discrimination hearings

In the past weeks, the Supreme Court has held hearings regarding what is or is not sexual and gender expression discrimination under Title VII, which bars discrimination on the basis of sex as well as other factors, according to NPR

One case being deliberated deals with discrimination on the basis of gender identity. According to NPR, Aimee Stephens claims that two weeks after coming out to her boss and co-workers at a funeral home in Michigan as transgender, she was fired. She claims this is discrimination under Title VII.

Also according to NPR, the other case deals with whether a person can be fired due to their sexuality. Gerald Bostock, a gay man, says he was fired from his job as a child-welfare coordinator because of his sexuality. 

“Title VII — that’s federal anti-discrimination law — bans discrimination on the basis of race, religion, various other categories, and sex. Traditionally federal courts have said that sex refers to biological sex; it doesn’t include either sexual orientation or transgenderism … basically sexual orientation is different than sex itself,” said Stephen Befort, a University law professor who specializes in employment-related issues. 

It is important to note that these cases may not greatly impact Minnesota, Befort said. Minnesota’s Human Rights Act includes sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classifications.

Befort said he predicts the two recently appointed judges, Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, are likely to position the court to rule against the discrimination claims. 

Conflict between Syria and Turkey 

In early October, President Donald Trump agreed to pull troops out of Syria at the request of the Turkish president, according to Politico. Critics say that this is essentially “giving the green light” for Turkey to move into Northern Syria and abandons Kurdish allies in the region, said Ragui Assaad, a Global Policy professor at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs. The troops in that area were working with the Kurds to prevent Turkey from attacking. 

The region, a strip of land called the Safe Zone, was left under the control of a Kurdish group called the Syrian Defense Forces as a result of the Syrian Civil War. The group has had ongoing conflict in the area with ISIS and Turkey, which considers the SDF to be allied with a rebel group within the country, according to CNN

Per CBS, on Oct. 17, Vice President Mike Pence and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo went to Turkey to negotiate a temporary ceasefire with the Turkish president on the condition that the Kurds withdraw from the Safe Zone, allowing Turkish troops to assume control of the area.

As of Tuesday, the SDF has withdrawn from the area. Russia and Turkey have made an agreement to join forces in patrolling the Safe Zone. 

The ceasefire has ended as of Tuesday, according to CNN

“So now there’s a potential of confrontation between the Syrian regime and Turkey on this area,” Assaad said.

The California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA)

Over the past weeks, California has deliberated on how to enact a privacy law which will go into effect on Jan. 1. The law will give consumers more of a say in how much of their online data companies can collect and what those companies can do with it, according to CNET

Online consumers agree to one of two data collection types when using a website: first- and third-person usage. First-person data transfers occur when a company collects data and uses it in-house for its own purposes. 

Third-person data transfer occurs when a website collects user information and transfers it, usually through sale to a third party, said Chris Terry, professor of media law at the Hubbard School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

While these terms are already outlined in conditions users must agree to, California’s law allows users to control what information can be sold to a third party and even allows users to request that their data be deleted altogether, according to CNET. 

“Most people don’t read the conditions for use of a social media platform or a website and as such sort of give their approval to this without really understanding the potential consequences for it,” Terry said.  

Terry says that the CCPA, which is based on a European Union regulation, will act as a model to any possible future privacy policies.