A number of progressive groups and advocates gathered in front of the Federal Building in downtown Raleigh Monday morning to protest Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court confirmation hearings began in Washington.
Rob Schofield, director of policy and research at N.C. Policy Watch, led off the protest with a statement about Gorsuch’s fitness for the position – and the process by which he was nominated.
“We’re here today to call on North Carolina’s two U.S. senators – particularly Thom Tillis, who serves on the Senate Judiciary Committee which is meeting at this very moment – to rethink their support for Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch,” Schofield said. “We also call on Senate Democrats to do whatever they can to stop the Gorsuch nomination.”
Schofield pointed to The Gorsuch Report, prepared by the non-partisan legal advocacy group Alliance for Justice, as a good summary of why Gorsuch is a poor nominee. The report outlines Gorsuch rulings and statements that suggest his confirmation would be bad for – among other issues – the environment, LGBT rights, worker’s rights, the separation of church and state and the unchecked power of corporations.
“It’s outrageous these hearings are taking place in the first place and that Gorsuch is under consideration,” Schofield said. “If there was any integrity at all in the process, Merrick Garland would be on the Supreme Court today as its ninth justice.”
Schofield called Gorsuch a right wing extremist who would take American backward.
MaryBe McMillan, the secretary-treasurer for the AFL-CIO of North Carolina, agreed.
“We need a Supreme Court justice who cares more about ‘we the people’ than corporations pretending to be people,” McMillan said. “Despite President Trump’s promise to protect the interests of American workers, he has nominated a judge who has consistently sided with corporations over working folks.”
Citing cases involving employee negligence that led to an employees death, workers whose wages were shortchanged and women in gender discrimination suits, McMillan said it was obvious Gorsuch is no friend to working people.
“Working people need a judge on the Supreme Court who will look out for the little g uy,” McMillan said. “A judge who understands there can be no special protections for corporations and the wealthy, a judge who will uphold our constitutional and moral values of liberty, equality and justice for all.”
“Neil Gorusch is not that judge,” McMillian said.
Ames Simmons, director of transgender policy for Equality North Carolina and board member of the Human Rights Campaign, highlighted Gorsuch’s hostility toward LGBT rights.
“Although he professes to hew narrowly to strict construction, his jurisprudence and opinions – such as the 10th Circuit Hobby Lobby decision – suggest he’s only restrained when it come to individual control over our bodies,” Simmons said. “Not when it comes to inventing novel interpretations of ‘religious freedom’ laws that would grant unprecedented rights for closely held corporations to hold religious beliefs.”
Simmons said the next Supreme Court justice should be fair minded, particularly when it comes to upholding civil rights laws – especially those related to gender, sexual orientation and gender identity.
“Based on his own statements, Neil Gorsuch is not that person,” Simmons said. “We have no reason to believe he will respect the rights of LGBTQ people and we urge Senators to vote ‘no.’
Tara Romano, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice North Carolina, said Gorsuch’s confirmation would be a huge step back for women.
“It appears Judge Gorsuch’s main qualification for the Supreme Court in the eyes of the Trump administration is his consistent hostility to bodily autonomy,” Romano said. “Whether that is opposition to the right to choose an abortion, the right to access birth control or the right to express one’s sexual orientation without threat of discrimination, the highest court in the land exists to protect the rights of all Americans – not just those who subscribe to a justice’s personal views.”
Bob Phillips, executive director of the non-partisan good government group Common Cause, said American democracy is “under threat.”
Citing laws passed by the N.C. General Assembly he said gerrymander districts and suppress the vote, Phillips said his group has “grave concerns” about Gorsuch’s nomination.
“We need a justice who will defend voting rights,” Phillips said. “We need to make sure that voting isn’t made harder for certain groups in our country. We need to make sure our districts are not gerrymandered to where peoples’ votes are diluted and finally we need to try to have some kind of control over the explosion of special interest money that again is distorting our democracy.”
Phillips said the senate should “fully vet’ Gorsuch to be sure he’ll be part of ensuring a more healthy democracy.
Schofield said that since being elected president, Donald Trump has done a lot of dangerous things – but Gorsuch’s nomination may be the most dangerous.
“A lot of the ideas and nominations Trump has advanced – they’re going to go away after a couple of years,” Schofield said. “Some of the nominees to head departments and various state and national agencies – they’ll be gone in a matter of months. But Gorsuch is likely to be on the United States Supreme Court for another thirty, maybe even forty years.”
“In that sense it could be the most destructive action Donald Trump has taken thus far,” Schofield said.