Slattery v. Cuomo

Last modified 2023.02.27

  • Status Ongoing
  • Type Amicus
  • Court U.S. Court of Appeals
  • Issues Abortion Access, Discrimination by Employers, Fighting Discrimination, Religious Exemptions and Public Health

Case Documents

In 2019, New York passed a law prohibiting employers from discriminating against employees based on the reproductive-health decisions of employees or their dependents. In January 2020, a crisis pregnancy center and its owner filed a lawsuit in federal district court challenging the new law, arguing, among other things, that it violated their free-speech and religious-exercise rights due to their religious opposition to abortion and contraception.

The plaintiffs filed a motion for an injunction prohibiting the state from enforcing the law against them, and the state filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit. In March 2021, the district court ruled in favor of the state, denying the plaintiffs’ injunction motion and dismissing the case.

The plaintiffs appealed that decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In August 2021, Americans United filed an amicus brief defending the constitutionality of the antidiscrimination law. The brief argued that the antidiscrimination law does not violate the plaintiffs’ religious-exercise rights. We explained that the law applies equally to religious and nonreligious organizations and to religious and nonreligious conduct, and that the right to freely exercise religion does not grant religious organizations an unfettered privilege to ignore antidiscrimination laws.

On February 27, 2023, the Second Circuit issued an opinion agreeing with us that the antidiscrimination law does not violate the plaintiffs’ religious-exercise rights.  But the Second Circuit also ruled that the trial court was wrong to dismiss the case and that the plaintiffs are entitled to proceed on claims that the antidiscrimination law violates their freedom to expressive association.

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