Sen. Susan Collins seeks to ensure courts protect gay jurors

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A bill introduced by U.S. Sen. Susan Collins would prevent lawyers in federal courts from striking potential jurors on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity.

“Serving on a jury is a fundamental right and obligation that no one should be prohibited from fulfilling based on his or her sexual orientation,” the Maine Republican said in a prepared statement.

“I have long worked to fight discrimination, and I am proud to join this effort to eliminate bias from our judicial system,” Collins said.

Collins and U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., introduced the Jury Access for Capable Citizens and Equality in Service Selection bill this week as a companion to one offered by U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., in the House. It is similar to ones Collins has supported without success for years.

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“Discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity has no place in our country,” Shaheen said.

Every citizen has the right and responsibility to fulfill their civic duty by sitting on a jury and participating in the judicial process. Our jury selection process should represent our country’s values of inclusion and acceptance, not fall prey to discrimination,” Shaheen said in a news release issued by her office.

Federal law bars discrimination on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin and economic status in the selection of jurors, but there is nothing explicit to ensure that sexual orientation and gender identity discrimination isn’t allowed.

However, a circuit court of appeals ruled several years ago that it is unconstitutional for a juror to be excluded on the basis of sexual orientation and that sexual orientation. Its decision, however, doesn’t necessarily extend to all federal courts.

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