Colorado judge Neil Gorsuch was confirmed on Friday as the newest Supreme Court justice, following a brutal confirmation process that was only made possible after Republicans blocked President Obama from nominating judge Merrick Garland during in his final year in the Oval Office.
Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell (pictured) was exuberant that Gorsuch was confirmed, even though he had to resort to the so-called nuclear option to get him on the bench. After Gorsuch failed to impress Democrats with what The New York Times called "folksy" and "canned" answers to questions posed during his confirmation process, the minority party filibustered him and denied him the 60 votes needed for confirmation. Instead of presenting a more moderate candidate, McConnell altered the filibuster rules and changed the Supreme Court irrevocably by allowing high court justices to be confirmed with a simple majority vote. The final vote tally for Gorsuch was 54-45. The longterm ramifications of McConnell's actions -- which followed him stonewalling President Obama last year -- are not yet known.
At only 49, Gorsuch is expected to sit on the bench for decades. His rulings on social issues are limited, though he counts rabid homophobe Antonin Scalia -- the deceased Supreme Court justice he's replacing -- as a judicial hero. Gorsuch has often ruled for corporate interests and weighed in on the Hobby Lobby case before it went to the Supreme Court, ruling that the craft chain store was not in the wrong when it refused to offer contraceptive coverage for its employees.
Gorsuch did weigh in on two transgender-related cases, with mixed results. He has been clearly against marriage equality in the past, writing of his opposition to it in a 2004 dissertation. Using vague words, he did tell the Senate that he sees same-sex marriage and abortion rights as "settled law." Still, equality advocates vehemently opposed his nomination, seeing him as amenable to "religious freedom" arguments that will enable discrimination against LGBT people.
"We remain concerned that Judge Gorsuch will now have a lifetime appointment to the U.S. Supreme Court," PFLAG executive director Elizabeth Kohm wrote in a statement. "We thank our friend Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) for his heroic efforts to elevate Judge Gorsuch's longtime opposition to discrimination protections, which are so crucial to the wellbeing and safety of LGBTQ people and other similarly marginalized communities. PFLAGers everywhere will continue to educate about the real impact of decisions made in the judicial branch of government. Additionally, we will continue to participate in amicus briefs to the court to raise the unique and crucial family and ally voice by sharing the real stories of harm done to our LGBTQ loved ones."
(RELATED: Gorsuch Is Skeptical of LGBT Rights)