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Supreme Court allows Oregon city policy that punishes homeless people for sleeping on public property

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Friday rejected a constitutional challenge to ordinances enacted by a small city in Oregon that punish homeless people for sleeping on public property when they have nowhere else to go.

The justices on a 6-3 vote on ideological lines with conservatives in the majority ruled in favor of the city of Grants Pass, saying the measures do not run afoul of the Constitution's Eighth Amendment, which bars cruel and unusual punishment.

"Homelessness is complex," Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in the ruling. "Its causes are many. So may be the public policy responses required to address it. At bottom, the question this case presents is whether the Eighth Amendment grants federal judges primary responsibility for assessing those causes and devising those responses. It does not."

Gorsuchadded that homeless people may have other defenses against punitive municipal ordinances that could be raised in other cases. Grants Pass may also be restricted by a new state law in Oregon that puts restraints on the power of cities to punish people for sleeping on public property.

The ruling was met with a sharp response from liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor who for the second day in a row made her strong feelings known by reading a summary of her dissent in the courtroom.

“Sleep is a biological necessity, not a crime,” she wrote.

The Grants Pass policy was "unconscionable and unconstitutional," she added, saying she hoped the court in future "will play its role in safeguarding constitutional liberties for the most vulnerable among us."

The ruling overturns a 2022 decision by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in favor of a group of homeless people.

That means an injunction limiting the city’s ability to enforce the

Read more on nbcnews.com