Scroll To Top

Not Really Feelin' Neil

All About Neil

The good and bad that Trump's Supreme Court pick represents.

After not even two weeks of the Trump administration, I can't muster that much anxiety for each and every new outrage. There's a limit on the supply of outrage, disgust, and angst I can feel at any given moment. I believe the kids these days call it being "all out of fucks to give." This, of course, is why I like to dole out my levels of indignation and outrage in a measured system. Hence, when Donald Trump (I'll never call him "President" since it's an insult to compare him to every president before him, including Nixon) named Neil Gorsuch as his Supreme Court nominee, I didn't freak out. I already had a freakout about a different topic scheduled at the time and I didn't want to double book. Now that the previously scheduled freakout is over, I can reallocate my freakout resources to Gorsuch.

We already knew that Trump was going to appoint a conservative justice to the court, so that didn't shock me in the least. Of course everyone knows that Merrick Garland, Obama's nominee for the vacant seat on the Supreme Court should have already been sworn in and there wouldn't be an issue here, but congressional Republicans stalled any attempts to confirm him. Now that some Democrats are saying that they'll refuse to confirm Gorsuch, the Republicans are shocked, yes shocked, at the level of obstructionism by the left. Now of course everyone is freaked out by anything that Trump says, does, casually points at, or looks at for too long, and rightfully so, but for a lot of folks Gorsuch is a complete unknown. I can say this confidently because unless you're employed in the legal field, you certainly have never heard of the man until just recently. Knowing who any federal judge is serious jurisprudence fanboyism. So, unlike a lot of other writers who got told by their editors to get them 1,000 words on Gorsuch in the next hour so can make sure that their takes are the hottest and freshest, I took a few minutes to read up on the guy.

I have to be honest; the guy is good at his job. No regular follower of legal issues I have found who doesn't trade in shock, outrage, and click-bait has anything really bad to say about the guy. They have a lot to say about his beliefs, his interpretations of the Constitution, and his politics, but the guy is apparently not a fiendish villain out to destroy American democracy and hand it over to the racist circus peanut that sits in the Oval Office.

Now, his stance on LGBT issues? Yeah, that's where I and a lot of people have a major problem. Gorsuch was one of the judges who agreed that Hobby Lobby, a craft store best known single-handedly keeping the practice of scrapbooking alive, actually had the ability to have a deeply seated religious belief. This mean that an abstract entity meant for the purpose of buying and selling goods could have a strong opinion on birth control. This, of course, will matter when it comes time for the Supreme Court to hear a case on whether or not decorating a cake with "Congratulations, Brad and Brian" is as damaging to a person's belief as being tossed into a coliseum full of lions (it's not).

Where Gorsuch is a major problem is actually with transgender rights. One major case was over the issue of bathrooms. In Kastl v. Maricopa County Community College, he took an interestingly mixed opinion in that a transgender person actually could make a claim for sex discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 based on gender stereotyping. Now, this, this is good, I'm fine with this. What makes it a problem, though, is that he agreed with the ruling that said a transgender person couldn't use the bathroom matching their gender identity until they complete gender-confirmation surgery. Of course, common sense says that unless the public restroom is an open pit where everyone can get a look, no one is going to know what your surgical status is unless they're checking at the door.

Additionally, his consensus that the school was not discriminatiing by barring a trans person from the correct bathroom over "restroom safety" is troubling. Of course, this "restroom safety" mean "scary sexual predators dressed in bad wigs who don't really exist" and not "trans woman hospitalized because some dude isn't secure in his masculinity."

The other case where he weighed in bothers me even more. In Druley v. Patton, his opinion was that a transgender prison inmate wasn't entitled to World Professional Association of Transgender Health-recommended hormone treatments, nor entitled to reassignment away from an all-male facility. The ruling seems to argue that since hormone dosages are not guided by the association's specifics, prison officials can go against medical advice and not prescribe anything at all! That's akin to saying that a cancer patient doesn't need a specific dosage of chemo, so they don't have to receive any at all!

When it comes to the argument that it's unsafe and unfair to house a transgender inmate with the opposite sex, it comes down to a legal technicality of transgender people not being a protected class like a racial or religious minority. Sure, if you want to get technical, but what about the idea of "cruel and unusual punishment"? The history of violence against transgender inmates by other inmates as well as prison staff is so well documented that it's beyond any reasonable dispute. Mind you, "reasonable" these days seems quaint, a relic of a bygone era.

In the larger sense of the issue of a Supreme Court justice, Gorsuch's appointment merely restores the balance to the court that existed when Antonin Scalia was alive. Additionally, the majority that ruled in favor of same-sex marriage remains in place, so overall, nothing will really change with his appointment. Yes, the seat should have gone to Garland, but that's like thinking about dates and relationships that never were; it doesn't change that we're unhappy with the one we're with now. Gorsuch won't be a terrible judge in the larger sense and has received praise from far more liberal legal peers in that regard; hell, even he clerked for our pal Justice Anthony Kennedy.

He's genuinely going to be a good justice in the meta sense of ensuring judicial independence and respect for democracy. Despite the bluster of Dems trying to block the vote, he probably will end up being confirmed. However, he's proved that he will not be a good justice for LGBT+ people, and that's where we should have a few minutes set aside for a freakout. Just a few.

AMANDA KERRI is a writer and comedian living in Oklahoma City. Follow her on Twitter @EternalKerri.

Advocate Channel - The Pride StoreOut / Advocate Magazine - Fellow Travelers & Jamie Lee Curtis

From our Sponsors

Most Popular

Latest Stories

Amanda Kerri