WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump’s travel ban targeting people from six Muslim-majority countries violates the U.S. Constitution by discriminating on the basis of religion, a federal appeals court ruled on Thursday in another legal setback for the policy.
The Richmond, Virginia-based 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, on a 9-4 vote, became the second federal appeals court to rule against the ban, finding that the Republican president’s own words demonstrated that bias against Muslims was the basis of the policy.
The U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the ban, put in place by Trump by presidential proclamation in September, to go into effect while litigation challenging it continues.
The 4th Circuit ruling went further than the earlier decision by the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which found the ban violated federal immigration law but did not address whether it also violated the Constitution. The Supreme Court already has said it will consider both issues in deciding the legality of the ban in the coming months.
The justices are due in April to hear arguments over the ban and issue a ruling by the end of June.
“Examining official statements from President Trump and other executive branch officials, along with the proclamation itself, we conclude that the proclamation is unconstitutionally tainted with animus toward Islam,” 4th Circuit Chief Judge Roger Gregory wrote in the ruling.
The travel ban challengers “offer undisputed evidence of such bias: the words of the President,” Gregory wrote, noting Trump’s “disparaging comments and tweets regarding Muslims.”