Well, there’s no turning back now: The Senate has confirmed Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court, which means that the conservative judge now has a lifetime appointment and will be deciding issues about the lives of LGBTQs for many years to come.
Gorsuch is Bad for Civil Rights
It’s tough to say exactly what Neil Gorsuch’s attitude is toward gay people. He’s said very little, but what little he’s said hasn’t been encouraging. During his confirmation hearings, he was asked about LGBTQ Americans and all he could muster was “what about them? They’re people.”
But it’s not hard to read into his previous rulings to see an attitude that’s a great concern. Previously, he wrote that same-sex couples shouldn’t use litigation to secure equal rights, but should instead focus on passing laws. That’s a worry, because in recent years courts have ruled that the US Constitution guarantees due process and equal protection to LGBTQ people.
If Neil Gorsuch disagrees with those rulings, he’s in a position to overturn countless victories across the country — or to put the brakes on any further wins.
Likely LGBTQ Cases Before the Supreme Court
What makes matters worse: There are likely to be lots of cases headed toward the Supreme Court that could completely transform the lives of queer people. That’s because Republicans have been introducing insidious challenges to civil rights around the country, sometimes in the form of legislation (like North Carolina’s ongoing “bathroom ban” efforts) and sometimes in the form of lawsuits (like a Texas case demanding that Houston stop offering benefits to same-sex spouses of city employees). Those efforts are likely to provoke cases that will wind up heading through the federal court system; and Neil Gorsuch is now in a position to adjudicate them.
We don’t know how Gorsuch will rule on those cases — or even exactly what those cases will be — but we do know that he’s one of the chief architects of the Hobby Lobby decision, which is a cause for great concern. It means that he’s sympathetic to corporations, ruling that they should be considered “people,” and deference should be given to them as though companies can have religious beliefs.
Gorsuch also approved of a prison that denied medical care to transgender inmates. He wrote in favor of a company that wanted to ban trans employees from using the bathroom in the name of “safety.” He even sided with a nursing home that wanted to withhold medical coverage from employees, citing religious convictions.
New Threats from the First Amendment Defense Act
One of the most dangerous bills in the country right now is the First Amendment Defense Act, a proposal that would give sweeping permission to invalidate marriage licenses for same-sex couples. If it passes, anyone who wants to deny rights to LGBTQ couples would have legal permission to do so, essentially treating them as though they are legal strangers.
Donald Trump has already declared that he’ll sign it into law, and if he does, there’s likely to be a lawsuit over its legality. If that suit winds up before the Supreme Court, it could mean that it would become legal nationwide to deny LGBTQ people housing, loans, jobs, education, immigration and tax equality, and any number of other rights.
When religion comes into conflict with human rights, Gorsuch has shown himself to be comfortable siding with religion, even when it means hurting countless people. And now the country’s stuck with him for the rest of his life.