U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the economy during a visit to Austin, Texas July 10, 2014.
Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

Conservative lawyers have a roadmap that leads to Texas

Yesterday, an important Obama administration regulation was scheduled to take effect that would have prevented discrimination based on “gender identity” or the “termination of pregnancy” in health care services. BuzzFeed reported, however, that policy was blocked over the holiday weekend by a conservative judge in Texas.
The lawsuit – brought by Texas, a handful of other states, and some religiously affiliated nonprofit medical groups – challenges a regulation implementing the sex nondiscrimination requirement found in the Affordable Care Act (ACA). […]

Explaining the lawsuit, [U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor] wrote, “Plaintiffs claim the Rule’s interpretation of sex discrimination pressures doctors to deliver healthcare in a manner that violates their religious freedom and thwarts their independent medical judgment and will require burdensome changes to their health insurance plans on January 1, 2017.”
In other words, if medical professionals can’t discriminate on the basis of gender identity or abortion history, those medical professionals’ spiritual beliefs are being violated.

The Obama administration will now scramble, as the BuzzFeed report added, to either appeal the injunction or ask O’Connor “to limit his order to the plaintiffs in the case,” as opposed to targeting the federal regulation nationwide.

But while we wait for the next steps in the legal process, an important pattern has taken shape. In this case, the district court judge was appointed by George W. Bush, but more important than partisanship is geography: the plaintiffs filed suit in Texas.

And that’s far more interesting than it might seem at first blush.

In late November, for example, a district court judge in Texas also cracked down on the Obama administration’s federal regulation making millions of American workers eligible for overtime pay. Soon after, the New York Times took note of the Lone Star State’s unique legal role of late.
Over the last two years, Federal District Court judges in [Texas] have chipped away at Mr. Obama’s legacy by striking down or suspending no fewer than five regulations, executive orders or actions, and guidelines, including an action that would have allowed illegal immigrants who are parents of United States citizens to remain in the country, and guidance that would have expanded restroom access for transgender students.
As Mother Jones’ Kevin Drum recently joked, “If you want a local judge to block an Obama initiative and apply his ruling to the entire country, go to Texas. Apparently they’re all willing to do it down there.”

With more than 100 judicial vacancies on the federal bench, soon to be filled by Donald Trump and a radicalized Republican majority in the Senate, far-right litigants will soon have plenty of other options to strike down progressive measures, but for now, their maps all seem to lead to the same state.


Federal Courts, Federal Judiciary and Texas

Conservative lawyers have a roadmap that leads to Texas