Today, the Senate has confirmed Neil Gorsuch with a vote of 54-45 to fill the ninth Supreme Court seat that has been vacant for over a year. During the presidential race, there was a lot of talk about what each candidate would mean for the future of the Supreme Court. Realizing the importance of this nomination, many people who didn’t necessarily like either of the candidates made their decision based on the type of judge each candidate would seek to appoint to the Supreme Court.
The Supreme Court should be separate from politics, however, when judges make their decisions on court cases, it becomes clear of which side they are on. Democrats have shown great opposition to Gorsuch and, as most things in Washington, it has become an issue of party politics.
Gorsuch’s nomination is considered to be a win for conservatives, especially Christian conservatives who advocate for the reversal of Roe v. Wade. Interestingly, however, during the nomination hearings, Gorsuch seemed to suggest that he wouldn’t be so quick to overturn the precedent of Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion, nor that of Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized gay marriage. The question is, was this just a political move knowing he wouldn’t get the votes if he had said the opposite?
In his history as a judge, Gorsuch has placed a great deal of attention and emphasis on religious liberties. While this is the case, some of his opposition has come with concerns that he may protect the Christian faith over others because of his Episcopalian-Protestant roots and these beliefs often don’t align with certain equal rights and women’s issues, such as gay rights, the right to choose, and access to contraceptives.
Gorsuch has been known to support public displays of religion and believes that one’s religious conscience should be respected when something is in violation of one’s convictions. When the Hobby Lobby case came to the 10th Circuit Court, Gorsuch supported Hobby Lobby’s exception to the contraception mandate, which was later upheld in the Supreme Court. Also in the case of Planned Parenthood Association of Utah v. Herbert, Gorsuch wrote a dissent defending Utah’s attempt to halt funding to Planned Parenthood. Following this decision, the American Center for Law and Justice’s Chief Council Jay Sekulow said,
“He is decidedly pro-life and understands what it means to protect the constitutional freedoms afforded to all Americans.”
These are just a few instances of when Gorsuch has upheld religious liberties, but also a prime example of how those often come in conflict with other important social issues.
Disagreeing with his rulings, Caroline Frederickson of the American Constitution Society said,
“To what extent do people with religious beliefs have to follow the law if they believe it violates their conscience? What is the outer limit of that? I think that’s a potentially very frightening direction for the law to go.”
Now that he has been confirmed, it will be interesting to see what Gorsuch will mean for religious liberties and whether he will seek to overturn some of the cases that he previously indicated he would not.
Gorsuch’s Record On Religious Liberty Cases: