Having been in office for just 12 days, President Trump has already demonstrated why the United States Supreme Court is such a critically important check on elected officials in the other two branches of government. The next justice appointed to the Court must be an independent and fair-minded person without political or ideological motivations – someone who will uphold the protections and values enshrined in our Constitution – for everyone. Judge Neil Gorsuch is not that person.
Neil Gorsuch was appointed to the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals by President George W. Bush in 2006, and since that time has amassed a judicial record that prioritizes the interests of large corporations and the wealthy over the needs of workers, threatens critical health and safety protections ensuring clean air and water and safe food and medicine, exhibits hostility towards issues involving women’s health care and reproductive justice, and endangers hard-won civil rights gains of the LGBTQ community.
Why is the Supreme Court Important to the LGBTQ Community?
The Supreme Court has played a critical role in the advancement of legal protections for the LGBTQ community. Much of the equality we enjoy today is due to landmark decisions such as Romer v. Evans (1996), which prohibited states from banning nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people; Lawrence v. Texas (2003), which invalidated anti-sodomy laws that criminalized same-sex relationships; and United States v. Windsor (2013) and Obergefell v. Hodges (2015), which required federal recognition of marriages between same-sex couples and brought about nationwide marriage equality, respectively.
Why is Gorsuch Bad for the LGBTQ Community?
Judge Gorsuch’s record exhibits hostility towards the LGBTQ community. In addition to ruling against a transgender woman who was incarcerated in Oklahoma, denying her medically necessary transition-related care, he also voted with the majority in the 10th Circuit’s Hobby Lobby decision (eventually affirmed by the U.S. Supreme Court). Hobby Lobby found that privately-held for-profit secular corporations can impose their religious beliefs on their employees. Specifically, the Court affirmed that employers could invoke their religious beliefs as justification for refusing to pay for contraception for women covered under their health plans.
In a separate opinion, Gorsuch wrote, “When a law demands that a person do something the person considers sinful, and the penalty for refusal is a large financial penalty, then the law imposes a substantial burden on that person’s free exercise of religion.” This concept is a dangerous indicator of how broadly Judge Gorsuch might apply his thinking around religious liberty and opens up numerous ways in which religion could be used to discriminate against the LGBTQ community. We have already seen the consequences of Hobby Lobby, which is frequently cited in cases across the country as justification for religious exemptions from nondiscrimination laws.
In addition to his judicial decisions that threaten LGBTQ rights, women’s health, workers’ rights, and critical environmental and health and safety regulations, Judge Gorsuch has also accused “American liberals” of becoming “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 various other issues. This mindset dismisses a critical role of the courts – which is to provide a check and balance on the legislative and executive branches. When the rights of minorities are denied, the courts are where we must be able to seek relief and protection.
It is clear that Neil Gorsuch is not the right choice to serve as our next U.S. Supreme Court Justice and Family Equality Council opposes his nomination.