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Shaheen says legislation still needed to prohibit jury discrimination on basis of sexual orientation and gender identity

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) welcomed the decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to decline to reconsider its earlier holding that it is unconstitutional for a juror to be excluded on the basis of sexual orientation and that sexual orientation warrants the same strong legal protections in jury selection as other categories, such as women and minorities. The 9th Circuit Court’s decision to not take up the issue again supports the concept behind Shaheen’s bipartisan Jury ACCESS (Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection) Act that would amend the federal statute to prohibit the practice of striking jurors in federal courts on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Every citizen has the right and obligation to sit on a jury and participate in a judicial process that does not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity,” Shaheen said. “The 9th Circuit’s recognition that no American should be excluded from this important civil responsibility on account of something that has no bearing on their jury fitness is important for people in the 9th Circuit but we still need to extend this right and responsibility to people across the country.”

Shaheen continued, “The judicial process should represent our nation’s principles of inclusion and acceptance and I will continue working to meet that goal.”

As it currently stands, the United States Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status during jury selection in federal courts. U.S. Code, however, does not prohibit discrimination on sexual orientation or gender identity.

Last year, a Senate Committee included the bipartisan Jury ACCESS Act sponsored by Senator Shaheen and Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) and Patty Murray (D-WA) in the Financial Services FY2014 Appropriations bill. The unanimous 9th Circuit Court ruling issued in February broke new legal ground in holding that sexual orientation deserves the same strong legal protections in jury selection as other categories, citing the Supreme Court's decision last year striking down a federal law denying federal benefits to married same-sex couples.