By: Mike Brest
President Trump’s nomination of Neil Gorsuch to fill the empty seat on the Supreme Court has been met with both praise and condemnation from organizations depending on which side of the aisle they’re standing. The empty seat represents a key position considering the void is left following the death of the consistently conservative Antonin Scalia. With a number of vital decisions heading the Supreme Court’s way, the choice to fill the ninth seed is important to both parties.
Many liberal organizations have raised legitimate concerns about Judge Gorsuch’s previous rulings. While there are some exceptions, many of the organizations and foundations that supported Hillary Clinton’s campaign, also are now fighting President Trump’s nomination. Unsurprisingly though, many of President Trump’s biggest advocates commended the selection.
Civil-rights organizations have protested the nomination arguing he often made rulings limiting fundamental rights. Last month, 108 civil rights organizations signed a letter sent to senators asking them to oppose the nomination. Groups that were a part of it include Planned Parenthood, the ACLU and the Human Rights Campaign. Knowing his history on fundamental rights, like with the Hobby Lobby case, these organizations have apprehension of his residing on the highest court in the land.
The Supreme Court is expected to handle multiple landmark cases coming up and having the tie-breaking judge confirmed could prove to be critical. One they were expected to listen to was Grimm vs. Gloucester County school board. The case will be vital for trans people. Grimm wanted to begin using the male bathroom, the gender he identifies with, but the school district would not allow it. With President Trump revoking President Obama’s guidelines on trans people and Title IX last month, the Supreme Court sent it back to the appeal’s court.
Other major issues that could come to the highest court in the land in the near future includes a potential repeal and retry Roe v. Wade, gun control, and immigration reform. All of these issues would likely be voted down party lines. So, as of now that would result in 4-4 ties. Gorsuch’s confirmation would tip the scale. But looking down the road, it looks like barring an unexpected resignation; the next available seat will be replacing one of the four democrats. Therefore, President Trump may have the opportunity to leave the White House with a 6-3 Supreme Court in favor of conservatives.
“Judge Gorsuch’s record, including his decision in the Hobby Lobby case, raises questions about whether he would allow businesses and individuals to opt out of nondiscrimination laws based on religious objections,” Thomas Dresslar, the Media Relations Associate from the ACLU said adding, “and his commitment to an ‘originalist’ theory of constitutional interpretation that disregards our nation’s evolving understandings of constitutional rights is also of concern.”
One common complaint from liberal organizations has been Gorsuch’s role in the Hobby Lobby Supreme Court case. The Green family filed a lawsuit against Sylvia Burwell, the Secretary of Health and Human Services in 2012. As a for-profit company Hobby Lobby was required to provide healthcare to employees, including contraceptives. The family though, argued that providing birth control violated their first amendment rights for religious protection. At the time, religious organization employers and non-profit religious institutions were legally allowed to get exemptions from providing care if it violated their beliefs. Gorsuch, a judge in a lower court that heard the case, sided that the business had the right to deny coverage for things that violated their religious beliefs.
On the other hand, many organizations that are considered right-winged on the political spectrum have supported Gorsuch’s nomination. Those in favor of him generally are organizations that have a strong belief in the first amendment, which he has proven time and time again.
Neil Gorsuch is “an excellent choice” according to Kristina Hernandez, the Director of Communication as Student for Life of America, before adding, “SFLA does plan to have rallies and other events in support of his nomination and hopeful confirmation. We want him to be confirmed quickly so he can take his place on the Court, which is of great importance to the pro-life movement as we seek to make abortion unthinkable.”
Students for Life of America is a pro-life organization dedicated to outlawing abortion. They have specific branches dedicated to doctors, lawyers and other professions.
Prior to the nomination, Gorsuch sat on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals, where he was known for having an originalist interpretation of the Constitution. Prior to holding that position, he spent time at a private law firm. He also spent time as a clerk for David Sentelle, an appeals court judge, and Justices Byron White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy.
The nomination process is expected to begin later this month and it requires a couple simple checks, then a committee vote and a Senate one. In terms of the final vote, a majority plus one vote is required for official confirmation, but that shouldn’t be too problematic considering the Republicans have 54 seats.