In a victory for President Donald Trump, his Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch was confirmed by the U.S. Senate in a bipartisan 54-45 vote.
Three Democrats — Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.) and Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.) — voted with Republicans to confirm Gorsuch, a day after voting to end debate on his nomination. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) was not present for the vote.
Gorsuch’s nomination sailed easily through the Senate after Republicans forced a procedural vote known as the “nuclear option,” which eliminated the filibuster for all current and future Supreme Court nominees. Democrats previously eliminated the filibuster for lower court judges in 2013, but both Democrats and Republicans insist they will keep the 60-vote threshold required to invoke cloture and end debate on pieces of legislation that come before the upper chamber.
In the end, though, there’s no question that Gorsuch, who bills himself as an adherent to the philosophy of “originalism” — favoring a literal, narrow approach to interpreting the U.S. Constitution and the original intent behind various other laws — would be a doctrinaire conservative in the mold of the man he’s replacing, the deceased Justice Antonin Scalia.
The chief objection to Gorsuch by LGBTQ groups was based primarily on his evasiveness in responding to questions about his views on LGBTQ rights, specifically concerning if LGBTQ people are protected under the Fourteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. While Gorsuch acknowledged the rights of other groups protected by the Constitution, he avoided making the same claim about LGBTQ rights, choosing to either avoid answering, or simply state what the Supreme Court’s precedent was, as he did for cases involving same-sex marriage or consensual adult sodomy.
LGBTQ advocates also took issue with Gorsuch’s written opposition to the concept of same-sex marriage, several rulings he made against transgender people who came before his court, and the reasoning behind his support of the Hobby Lobby decision, wherein a business can deny health coverage or other benefits to employees (including, potentially, LGBTQ people) over fears that providing such benefits make the business “complicit” in behavior to which they hold moral or religious objections. For example, while the Hobby Lobby decision dealt with access to birth control, advocates worry the decision could allow an employer could refuse to cover PrEP or life-saving antiretrovirals to gay men seeking to avoid infection by or living with HIV.
“Neil Gorsuch’s confirmation to the Supreme Court represents the triumph of bullying over moderation. Taking their lead from the Bully-in-Chief Donald Trump, Mitch McConnell twisted and turned the rules of the Senate to ram this extremist nominee through — slashing and burning safeguards for moderation, such as the rule calling for a 60 votes threshold needed to confirm an Associate Supreme Court Justice,” Russell Roybal, the deputy executive director of the National LGBTQ Task Force, said in a statement. “We now have a new Justice who is so conservative that he makes Antonin Scalia look moderate.”