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Good morning. The police keep using tear gas. The coronavirus is surging through prisons. And the Supreme Court issues a surprising landmark ruling for L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
The Supreme Court currently has a reliable five-member conservative majority on many issues — like business regulation, campaign finance, voting rights and the death penalty. On several of these issues, the court has issued sweeping decisions that throw out earlier precedents.
On other issues, however, the court does not lean so far to the right. The list includes immigration, antitrust and the census, all subjects on which at least one conservative justice has joined the court’s liberal members to issue liberal or moderate rulings.
After Justice Anthony Kennedy retired in 2018, it wasn’t clear which category L.G.B.T.Q. rights would fall into. Kennedy had written landmark opinions on gay rights, including the 2015 legalization of same-sex marriage. And when Brett Kavanaugh replaced Kennedy in 2018, many civil-rights advocates were anxious.
Yesterday’s big Supreme Court decision — holding that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protected gay and transgender workers from workplace discrimination — seems to answer the uncertainty: Even post-Kennedy, the court still leans left on L.G.B.T.Q. rights.
It was a 6-3 decision, with all four liberal justices in the majority, along with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Neil Gorsuch, who wrote the opinion. They rejected arguments from the Trump administration and the employers. (Kavanaugh dissented, along with Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas.)
“The lopsided ruling, featuring unusual alliances, was a major surprise from a fundamentally conservative court,” Adam Liptak, The Times’s Supreme Court reporter, told me. “It was a reminder that the justices are independent thinkers with varying approaches to the law.”
The law’s history. As Congress was debating the Civil Rights Act in 1964, a segregationist from Virginia — Representative Howard Smith — stood up and proposed a change: In addition to prohibiting discrimination based on race, creed and religion, the bill should also cover sex.
Women’s groups had been lobbying for this change. But some supporters of the Civil Rights Act worried that it was a ploy by Smith to kill the bill — because gender equality was an even more fanciful idea to many Americans in 1964 than racial equality.
Yet the bill passed, thanks in large part to the efforts of the small number of women then in Congress, like Representative Martha Griffiths of Michigan. In the more than a half-century since, those words — because of sex — have helped transform American life. And they played the central role in yesterday’s ruling.
For more on the history, see Todd Purdum in The Atlantic and the political scientist Christina Wolbrecht on Twitter.
As it happened: An A.C.L.U. lawyer who represented Aimee Stephens — one of the plaintiffs, who died during the case — reacted in real time to the ruling in a series of tweets compiled by Anushka Patil.
THREE MORE BIG STORIES
1. The police are using lots of tear gas
At least 96 law enforcement agencies have deployed some form of tear gas during recent protests against police brutality — the most extensive domestic use of the agent against demonstrators in five decades, one expert said.
The widespread use of tear gas has incited pushback: Seattle and Dallas have temporarily barred police officers from using it, while lawmakers in Massachusetts and New Orleans are calling for full bans. Research suggests that tear gas could amplify the spread of the coronavirus.
Oluwatoyin Salau, a 19-year-old Black Lives Matter activist who went missing, was found dead along with a 75-year-old woman in Tallahassee, Fla. Their deaths are being investigated as homicides, and a suspect is in custody.
Cup Foods, the neighborhood deli where a clerk called 911 to report that George Floyd had used a fake $20 bill, reopened yesterday. The newspapers on the rack were three weeks old, the last editions before Floyd’s death began to dominate front pages.
New York City is disbanding the Police Department’s anti-crime unit, a plainclothes team of hundreds of officers who have been involved in some notorious police shootings.
2. A spike in prison infections
The five largest known coronavirus clusters in the United States are not in nursing homes or meat packing plants, but inside prisons and jails. While the country’s overall infection rate has remained relatively flat, the number of infected prisoners has doubled and deaths have risen 73 percent over the past month.
Tight quarters, shared common rooms and limited personal autonomy make correctional facilities dangerous vectors for the virus. And while local jails have discharged thousands of inmates in response, state prisons have been reluctant to do so.
In other virus developments:
3. A new provocation from North Korea
North Korea today blew up a building where its officials and their South Korean counterparts had recently worked side by side, after weeks of threats to end the détente that has existed on the Korean Peninsula for the past two years.
The liaison office was opened in 2018 as the first channel for full-time, person-to-person contact between the Koreas. No South Korean officials had been there since January, when the office was closed because of the pandemic.
Here’s what else is happening
Several senior eBay executives mounted a cyberstalking campaign against a couple who ran an e-commerce newsletter critical of the company, prosecutors said, with tactics that included mailing them live cockroaches and a funeral wreath.
An Indian Army officer and two soldiers were killed by Chinese troops along the countries’ disputed border, Indian officials said. It was the first such violence in decades.
Mary Trump, the president’s niece, plans to release a book next month titled, “Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man.” In the book, she says she was the source who provided The Times with Trump tax documents a few years ago.
The head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration violated the agency’s code of ethics last year when he rebuked employees for contradicting Trump’s inaccurate claim that a hurricane would hit Alabama, NOAA said in a report.
Lives lived: The music stars Tina Turner, Suzanne Vega, Stevie Nicks and Duncan Sheik had at least one thing in common: Rupert Hine, a British hit-making producer. He has died at 72.
BACK STORY: The Supreme Court beat
In 1992, a young lawyer named Adam Liptak joined The New York Times Company from a big New York law firm. Over the next decade, Adam represented the newspaper in cases involving libel, privacy, document requests and more. “The job was at once sexy and sleepy, with a Maytag-repairman quality to it,” he said.
During that time, he impressed the editors running the paper, and in 2002, those editors asked Adam to leave behind the practice of law for the coverage of law. He became a reporter covering legal affairs and, in 2008, succeeded Linda Greenhouse on the Supreme Court beat.
This is the time of year when Adam’s byline is on big news stories about the end of the Supreme Court’s term. So we wanted to tell you a bit about his background.
One tip: If you have the time, make a point of reading the final version of his stories — like this one, on the L.G.B.T.Q. rights decision. Adam is a fast writer who often publishes a story within minutes of a Supreme Court announcement. But he prefers the later versions.
“Editors and readers demand almost instant reports on major developments, which means that my early stories are thin and lack the consideration of doctrinal context and practical consequences,” he has written. “Later versions of the same stories are fuller and better.”
Today’s episode of “The Daily” includes an interview with Adam.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT, PRIDE
Make some non-boring salmon
In my house — like many others — we eat salmon so regularly that we’re often looking for ways to dress it up. Here’s a simple idea, from Kay Chun, that I plan to try soon: Doused in a ginger-scallion vinaigrette, on top of a bed of miso-flavored rice and alongside a crunchy vegetable like brussels sprouts or iceberg lettuce. You can swap the meat for tofu if you like.
Read up on L.G.B.T.Q. history
The first Pride march happened 50 years ago in New York City, spanning about 50 blocks and drawing a few thousand participants. It was called the Christopher Street Liberation Day March then, and it was led by Brenda Howard, a bisexual activist, to commemorate the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising. As part of our ongoing Pride series, The Times spoke with organizers who recounted that march.
Click here for a virtual event guide to Pride 2020.
One by one, the glossy platypuses slid into the ponds they called home, outside the Australian capital of Canberra. Just months ago, the wetland, parched by drought and faced with the looming threat of fires burning through so much of the country, was uninhabitable. And so the wild platypuses had been away for months, sheltering at a zoo in Sydney.
Read the moving account of their recent return to the wetland reserve.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Toy that can get stuck in a tree (4 letters).
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow. — David
P.S. Nikole Hannah-Jones, a writer for The Times Magazine, joined Oprah Winfrey on her show “Where Do We Go From Here?” to discuss the collective grief of black Americans.
You can see today’s print front page here.
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Ian Prasad Philbrick and Sanam Yar contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at email@example.com.