President Donald Trump has nominated conservative Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch for a seat on the Supreme Court.
If he’s confirmed by the Republican-controlled Senate, Gorscuh will replace Antonin Scalia, the far-right, arch-enemy of LGBT rights who died in February 2016.
Gorsuch, a federal appeals court judge in Colorado, doesn’t have much of a paper trail on LGBT issues. But given some of his other positions, there is cause for concern.
Gorsuch is a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit, based in Denver. In a ruling, he held that the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that employee insurance plans cover contraceptives without a co-pay violated the rights of those employers that object to some or all contraceptives on religious grounds.
In the famous Hobby Lobby case, he sided with the conservative Christian family that owns the company and sued the federal government over the mandate. Government should not force anyone to be complicit in “conduct their religion teaches them to be gravely wrong,” he wrote in the Hobby Lobby case in 2013, when the appeals court ruled in the company’s favor. The Supreme Court issued a similar ruling the following year.
Gorsuch also wanted the full 10th Circuit to reconsider a three-judge panel’s ruling on a similar case involving a Catholic order, the Little Sisters of the Poor, which operates nursing homes. The panel ruled against the Little Sisters because of an opt-out clause in the ACA available to nonprofit organizations such as the order, allowing them to have their insurance provider absorb the cost of contraceptive coverage. That would accommodate the order’s religious objections, the panel ruled, but Gorsuch disagreed. His argument “was that the 10th Circuit had shown insufficient deference to the Little Sisters’ own articulation of the tenets of their religious beliefs,” SCOTUSBlog reports.
“Simply put, in cases that closely divided his court and the Supreme Court, Gorsuch has shown himself to be an ardent defender of religious liberties and pluralistic accommodations for religious adherents,” SCOTUSBlog notes.
This raises the question of whether Gorsuch might side with business owners who believe their religious liberty is violated by having to serve same-sex couples or other LGBT customers, or whether he would vote to uphold LGBT rights at all. But there is no record of him being called on to rule on such matters.
Gorsuch attended Harvard Law with former President Barack Obama and also holds degrees from Columbia and Oxford. He also worked for a time at the Department of Justice. Gorsuch has two daughters with wife Louise.