On Tuesday, March 14 President Trump announced that his replacement for the late Justice Antonin Scalia would be Neil Gorsuch, a justice who has served for ten years as a George W. Bush-appointed judge on the U.S. Tenth Circuit Court of appeals.
Since the announcement, LGBT groups have come together to express their opposition to Gorsuch’s appointment. Many of Gorsuch’s past rulings are in support of religious freedom in cases involving access to contraception, transgender protections and more.
“We strongly oppose this nomination,” Shannon Minter, legal director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights said in a statement. “Gorsuch has embraced extreme positions far outside the mainstream of most jurists, including a dangerously radical view of religious liberty that would undermine anti-discrimination protections for LGBT people and others.”
President Trump compared Gorsuch to the late Judge Scalia, telling his audience in the East Room of the White House on the night of his decision that “the image and genius” of the late justice “was in my mind throughout the decision making process,” according to the Washington Blade.
LGBT rights supporter Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, did not take the comparison lightly, saying, “Judge Gorsuch is Justice Scalia on steroids. His record demonstrates that, if confirmed, he would rely on his conservative, originalist philosophy to overturn critical precedents and to disregard the rights of everyday Americans while bolstering protections for corporations and special interests.”
During his decade on the bench in the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch joined a ruling against transgender rights in 2015 with the case Druley v. Patton. The courts rejected arguments stating the Oklahoma Department of Corrections violated a transgender inmate's constitutional rights by denying her hormone treatment and demanding that she wear masculine clothing.
According to the Washington Blade, this case asserts that transgender people do not belong to “a protected suspect class for purposes of Equal Protection Claims.”
Gorsuch has stated in the past that he opposes the use of courtrooms by civil rights groups to achieve progressive policy changes and protections, even writing an opinion piece in 2005 that argues, “judges are viewed and treated as little more than politicians with robes.”
“American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private school education,” Gorsuch wrote in his 2005 opinion piece ‘Liberals & Lawsuits.’ “This overweening addiction to the courtroom as the place to debate social policy is bad for the country and bad for the judiciary.”
Sarah Warbelow, the Legal Director of the Human Rights Campaign sent out an email to supporters on March 20 arguing that legal victories are crucial to social progress. In the email she asks supporters to mobilize against Gorsuch, including examples of his rulings such as the decision to side with discrimination in ‘Hobby Lobby v. Sebelius,’ which allowed corporations to deny health care services based on religious beliefs.
“So much of our progress has been made through narrow Supreme Court victories,” Warbelow wrote. “We know the future progress will also hinge on the courts — whether it’s healthcare, workplace protections, the rights of transgender youth and more.”
Chad Griffin, president of the Human Rights Campaign, has joined the LGBT voices rising in opposition to the Gorsuch nomination, stating:
“The Supreme Court has played a central role in advancing the promise of equality for LGBTQ Americans, and Judge Gorsuch’s anti-equality record — from opposing crucial medical treatment for a transgender person to supporting a license to discriminate for private corporations — makes him unfit to sit on the nation’s highest court,” Griffin said.
“We cannot afford a justice who will roll back our rights, or who will be a rubber stamp for Donald Trump’s unconstitutional actions,” Griffin continued. “America cannot afford to have Judge Gorsuch on the Supreme Court. We oppose this nomination.”
The Gorsuch nomination has not only received negative feedback, however. Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council has stated that Gorsuch’s religious freedom rulings are reason to support his appointment.
“Judge Gorsuch’s record over the last 14 years, especially on religious liberty, gives Americans every reason to believe he will make a fine Supreme Court justice,” Perkins said. “His reputation as a judge with integrity and dedication to the Constitution should be an encouragement to all Americans.”
Gregory Angelo, president of Log Cabin Republicans said marriage equality is not being threatened by this Supreme Court appointment and thus refuses to join the rising LGBT opposition to Gorsuch.
“Marriage equality is here to stay, and the confirmation of Judge Gorsuch — or any conservative justice — will not change that,” Angelo said. “Log Cabin Republicans continues to review the case history of Judge Gorsuch and welcomes confirmation hearings in the United States Senate to explore his perspective on the relevant issues facing LGBT Americans today.”
Many LGBT organizations disagree, however, and see this nomination as one of many instances of rising LGBT discrimination coming from the White House.
“The stakes couldn’t be higher for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people,” Warbelow wrote. “With all of the chaos and discrimination coming from the White House, more than ever we need a Supreme Court justice who will defend ALL of our rights.”