Update: On Monday, Judge Neil Gorsuch took his constitutional oath to become the Supreme Court’s 113th justice in a closed-doors ceremony, The Washington Post reported.
Ahead, everything you need to know about the newest member of SCOTUS.
Update April 3, 2017: The Senate Judiciary Committee is set to vote Monday on Judge Neil Gorsuch's nomination for the Supreme Court. If the panel clears the way for a full Senate vote, Gorsuch could be confirmed by the end of this week.
Ahead, we take a look into his background and where he stands on issues such as reproductive rights, religious freedom, and gun control.
This story was originally published on January 31, 2017.
President Trump announced on Tuesday night the nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. If confirmed by Congress, Gorsuch will fill the seat of the late Justice Antonin Scalia, who died last February.
"This may be the most transparent judicial selection process in history," Trump said, emphasizing that many who voted for him did so with the SCOTUS vacancy in mind, believing that he would nominate someone who shares their conservative values.
For the past 11 months, the Supreme Court has functioned with only eight justices — meaning that there is no tie-breaking vote in the event that there’s a 4-4 split decision (which happened four times after Scalia’s death, when President Obama was still in office).
Back in March, the Obama administration nominated Judge Merrick Garland for the vacancy, but the Republican-controlled Congress refused to give him a hearing for 10 months — making him the longest-waiting SCOTUS nominee to have been neither confirmed nor rejected.
Many expect Gorsuch to be confirmed, though Senate Democrats have said they will try to block the process.
During the campaign, Trump promised he would appoint a pro-life judge to the bench. So, does Gorsuch fit the mold? It seems that way, yes.
“Judge Gorsuch has outstanding legal skills, a brilliant mind, tremendous discipline and has earned bipartisan support,” Trump said. “It is an extraordinary résumé — as good as it gets.”
Of course, judges are tasked with deciding each case before them based on the evidence presented and the rule of law, without regard for their own personal political preferences. So technically, there is no way to be sure of how a judge will rule once they are on the bench. But we can make informed guesses about what perspective they will bring to certain issues based on what we know about them, and how they have ruled in the past. Ahead, a look into who Gorsuch is and where he stands — at least what we can tell so far.
Who is he?
A Denver-based judge for the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Gorsuch was appointed by former President George W. Bush in 2006. He was rumored to be President Trump's favorite for the Supreme Court job and is said to be the one contender who most resembles the late Justice Scalia.
Gorsuch has family connections to the GOP establishment. His mother, Anne Gorsuch, was the director of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Reagan administration. She was the first woman to lead that office. Before Gorsuch assumed the bench as a federal judge, he also served in the Justice Department during the administration of George W. Bush.
At the age of 49, Gorsuch is the youngest Supreme Court nominee in 25 years.
Where does he stand on birth control and religious freedom?
Gorsuch is one of the many conservatives who believe the birth control mandate of the Affordable Care Act violates the "religious freedom" of individuals. He was one of the judges who heard the Hobby Lobby case in 2012. He sided with the majority opinion, which argued that companies should be able to refuse to make certain forms of contraception available for their employees if they felt offering that in their insurance coverage went against the religious beliefs of the corporations' majority shareholders.
In his case opinion, Gorsuch wrote that the ACA policy forced Hobby Lobby "to violate their religious faith by lending an impermissible degree of assistance to conduct their religion teaches to be gravely wrong."
What is his stance on abortion?
He has never ruled on the topic of abortion. However, The Washington Post pointed out that in his book, The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia, Gorsuch wrote that "all human beings are intrinsically valuable and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong."
Reproductive rights advocates believe this could be indicative of where he would stand on future cases surrounding a woman’s right to choose.
"With Judge Neil Gorsuch, the stakes couldn’t be higher when it comes to women and our lives. Gorsuch represents an existential threat to legal abortion in the United States and must never wear the robes of a Supreme Court justice,” NARAL Pro-Choice America said in a statement following his nomination.
What about gun rights and gun control?
Gorsuch has never ruled on a case surrounding these issues. But The Charlotte Observer notes that he has supported the Second Amendment in some of his readings — even though those cases have been directly related to gun rights.
This didn’t stop the National Riffe Association (NRA) from celebrating his nomination, however.
“President Trump has made an outstanding choice in nominating Judge Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court. He has an impressive record that demonstrates his support for the Second Amendment,” Chris W. Cox, Executive Director of the NRA-Institute for Legislative Action, said in a statement.
What does he think about LGBTQ rights?
Gorsuch has never heard a case surrounding LGBTQ rights. However, his previous rulings in cases surrounding the issue of religious freedom has many advocates worried about what it could mean for the LGBTQ community.
"Judge Gorsuch gained national attention for his opinions in two federal cases supporting an employer’s right to refuse to pay for contraception as part of employee health coverage if doing so violates the employer’s religious beliefs. That bodes ill for LGBT people who are facing an onslaught of laws sanctioning discrimination in the name of religious liberty," Equality California executive director Rick Zbur said in a statement.