<span class="articleLocation”>When gay former law clerk Joshua Goodbaum
married his partner in 2014, he got effusive and emotional
reassurance from his former boss, President Donald Trump’s
conservative U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch.
Goodbaum, now an attorney in Connecticut, recalled fondly
their conversation on the week of the wedding: “He said, ‘This
is a wonderful thing. You’ll see how your relationship grows.'”
Goodbaum, who in 2009 served as a clerk for the Colorado
federal appeals court judge, added: “I have never felt the least
whiff from him of homophobia or intolerance toward gay people.”
As the U.S. Senate weighs whether to confirm the Republican
president’s nomination of Gorsuch for a lifetime seat on the
nation’s highest court, his views on social issues, such as gay
rights, are under scrutiny by Democrats and Republicans alike.
The Supreme Court periodically makes landmark civil rights
decisions such as the 2015 ruling legalizing gay marriage
nationwide. In their current term, for instance, the justices
will tackle a major transgender rights case.
For a year, the court has had eight justices, not the
requisite nine, because Republicans refused to consider
Democratic former President Barack Obama’s nomination of Merrick
Garland. Democrats remain furious with the Republicans for that,
and are scouring Gorsuch’s record to build their case against
his Senate confirmation.
When he was named as a nominee by Trump on Tuesday, Gorsuch,
49, immediately came under attack from liberal groups that
pounced on his social issues record, which is thin but offers
clues on how he might behave as a justice, if confirmed.
Like Goodbaum, friends and acquaintances of Gorsuch, many of
them Democrats, said he is genial, tolerant and respectful. In
some ways, he differs in style from the justice he was named to
replace, the late Antonin Scalia, who was known for being
combative and blunt on the bench.
Gorsuch would not put politics before the law, these people
said. But his conservative legal philosophy indicates he would
likely vote with like-minded conservative justices on the
closely divided court.
He rejects the idea that liberals can press their social
agenda in the courts.
That could signaled he may be less likely to side with
Justice Anthony Kennedy, a conservative who often casts the
deciding vote in close cases.
Kennedy has joined with liberal justices in backing gay
marriage, abortion rights and, most recently, a limited form of
racial preferences in college admissions. It remains an open
question whether Gorsuch would vote for conservative agenda
items such as expanding religious liberties in a way some
critics say allows for discrimination against gays and others,
restricting voting rights and lifting campaign finance
‘ADDICTED TO THE COURTROOM’
In a 2005 article for conservative magazine National Review,
Gorsuch said liberals “have become addicted to the courtroom,
relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and
the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social
agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to
the use of vouchers for private-school education.”
Some liberal politicians and advocacy groups have labeled
Gorsuch a conservative hardliner in part over his role in
deciding a 2013 case involving the Christian owners of the
arts-and-crafts retailer Hobby Lobby. The ruling allowed owners
of private companies to object on religious grounds to a federal
requirement that they provide insurance to employees that pays
for women’s birth control. It was affirmed by the Supreme
“We absolutely must not confirm a Supreme Court nominee who
has ruled that the religious beliefs of employers can trump the
law,” said Rachel Tiven, chief executive of Lambda Legal, an
advocacy group for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender
On another issue, Gorsuch last October said his colleagues
on the Denver-based 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals should
have reconsidered a ruling that prevented Utah Governor Gary
Herbert from suspending funding to women’s healthcare and
abortion provider Planned Parenthood over videos purported to
show its officials negotiating the sale of fetal tissue.
In 2006, Gorsuch wrote a book arguing against legalization
of assisted suicide and euthanasia.
After Trump nominated him, many social conservatives and
religious groups, perhaps looking back at his book, said they
hoped Gorsuch would vote on the court to roll back abortion
rights. In the book, Gorsuch cited the “inviolability of human
life,” calling it a “basic good.”
The Knights of Columbus, a Roman Catholic fraternal
organization, said Gorsuch would uphold religious freedoms “and
the right to life of every person.”
Former clerks said they do not know how Gorsuch, a member of
the Episcopal church, would vote on gay marriage or abortion.
But they said he never brought his religion into his work.
“He’s not the kind of person to use his post to push an
agenda,” said Jason Murray, a Gorsuch clerk in 2011 who is a
“You could certainly say Judge Gorsuch is a conservative.
But I don’t see how his personality or record bears out that he
is an extremist,” Murray said.
Some who know Gorsuch personally said his respect for legal
precedent could prevent radical attempts to change the law.
“He’s very sensitive to the importance of societal
stability. So if he were to change Roe v. Wade significantly I
would be surprised,” added Tracy Ashmore, a Democratic lawyer
from Denver, referring to the landmark 1973 Supreme Court ruling
legalizing abortion. (Additional reporting by Lawrence Hurley in Washington)
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