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Earlier this week, President Donald Trump named Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee.
Gorsuch, 49, is a Colorado based judge who was appointed by President Bush in 2006. He attended Harvard Law, Columbia, and Oxford Universities. He has been described as Scalia-esque – a reference to Justice Antonin Scalia, whose seat he is being considered for.
Supreme Court watchers SCOUTUSblog have praised Gorsuch’s ‘clear and routinely entertaining’ opinions, and his ability to separate his personal policy preferences from his judicial commitments.
Senate Democrats including Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer have voiced concerns over Gorsuch’s appointment due to his conservative principles, but this was likely to be the case no matter who Trump nominated.
Biography.com offered a light preview of some of Gorsuch’s positions on hot button issues. I’ve pulled a few in an effort to get a better feel for the judge and how he lines up in terms of individual liberties.
Abortion – There aren’t any public opinions from Gorsuch on Roe v Wade; however he did side with Hobby Lobby in a high profile case regarding contraception and religious beliefs. Gorsuch ruled that a religious non-profit should not have to provide contraceptive coverage to employees. I’m pro-choice, but I see merit in his ruling. Employer provided health care is not the nation’s sole source of birth control, where we work is an individual choice, and forcing an employer to violate an individual religious belief in order to provide an employee with birth control — which could otherwise be obtained elsewhere – comes a bit too close to the compulsory violation of the First Amendment for my taste. On the issue of abortion itself it’s hard to say where Gorsuch stands, but he’s replacing pro-life Scalia — so for worried, pro-choice, Dems the net difference here is zero.
Assisted Suicide – This is an issue that doesn’t get much media attention, but still deserves a nod. Gorsuch has published a book in which he takes a stand against assisted suicide. He believes that human life is intrinsically valuable, and that it should not be taken by ‘private persons.’ I take issue with this on two levels – first is the idea that a person should not have the freedom to end their own life. I’ll go out on a limb and assume that most people reading this have seen a friend or relative die a slow agonizing death. Is it not then cruel and unusual for the state to prevent that person from ending their own life? This isn’t to say that anyone who comes down with a sniffle should be handed a pistol and led to a private room to do the deed, but to make a blanket statement Like Gorsuch’s just doesn’t pass the ‘reasonable man’ test. In cases where a person has no quality of life, and is in an immense amount of pain; the option for assisted or self-induced suicide should be available. Furthermore, Gorsuch has ruled against death penalty appeals on the grounds that the sentence is not cruel and unusual. At best the idea that allowing a person to end their own life somehow violates the sanctity of human existence, but that the state should be free to do so – displays a stunning level of hypocrisy. If Gorsuch wants to rule in the name of individual liberty, and can indeed put his individual feelings aside, he should flip the script. Let’s put the right to die in the hands of the terminally ill, and take the right to kill away from the state – that’s liberty.
The Environment – If Democrats are worried about Gorsuch’s personal politics joining him on the bench, then they can take comfort in reports that he is an avid outdoorsman and conservationist. In the past he’s upheld renewable energy standards in Colorado in spite of a challenge from the coal industry. He also believes that laws should be interpreted by courts, not federal agencies – that’s good news for tree huggers who are worried that the Trump cabinet could turn up the heat on mother earth.
Gun Rights – Gorsuch has gotten the thumbs up from the NRA, and it’s likely because of opinions like the one he wrote on U.S. vs Games-Perez.
“The Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own firearms and may not be infringed lightly,” he said.
Continuing the idea that Gorsuch closely resembles Scalia is his stance on the Second Amendment. Much as my liberal media brethren may disagree, there are indeed a great many reasons for a person to own a firearm besides being a violent psycho. The Second Amendment provides an essential freedom to the American people. Firearms are a means of self-defense, can be used to hunt food, and should the unthinkable happen may serve as the last line of protection against the tyranny of government. From my cold dead hands indeed.
Democrats may still be a tad salty – to put it lightly – about the way the GOP handled President Obama’s nominee Merrick Garland, but Gorsuch is far from a disaster for the left. As the Chicago Tribune writes, Gorsuch “does not have any strong intellectual crusades on anything from standing to abortion to gay rights.”
That Gorsuch’s loyalty lies with the law and the constitution is good news for Democrats who have painted a bleak picture of the nominee, or as law professor Robert George wrote, “in a democracy, the law never lines up perfectly with anyone’s political and moral beliefs. And it is to the law that judges have sworn a sacred oath of fidelity.”
This contributor is a Marine veteran that has served in the Middle East. Due to the sensitive nature of his current job, he has requested to remain anonymous.