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Gorsuch Gets Boost from Pence; Some Mainers Aren't Sold

Vice President Mike Pence is expressing certainty that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed, but progressives in Maine aren't so sure. (Ken Hammond/Wikimedia)
Vice President Mike Pence is expressing certainty that Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch will be confirmed, but progressives in Maine aren't so sure. (Ken Hammond/Wikimedia)
February 6, 2017

AUGUSTA, Maine -- Vice President Mike Pence over the weekend warned Democrats not to block President Trump's Supreme Court nominee, at one point calling Judge Neil Gorsuch, "one of the most mainstream, accepted and exceptionally qualified nominees in history.” But advocates for women, the LGBTQ community and the environment disagree.

State Representative Mike Moonen, himself a gay man and the executive director of the group Equality Maine, said there's nothing mainstream about Trump's pick. Moonen said Gorsuch's statement that "the courtroom has become the left's primary means of affecting a social agenda," suggests he might shut the high court's door to some people and issues.

"For a judge to imply that a certain segment of the population has no right to be in court, and has no right to seek to access their fundamental civil rights through the courts, is deeply disturbing,” Moonen said.

Pence pressed for quick confirmation of Gorsuch during a speech in Philadelphia. Senate minority leader Chuck Schumer said President Trump raised the bar for Gorsuch to prove he will be an independent check on the administration when the President chose to attack Judge James Robart, the Bush appointee who ruled against Trump's seven-nation travel ban.

Eliza Townsend, executive director with the Maine Women's Lobby, called Gorsuch "out of the mainstream" when it comes to women's rights. She noted that the nominee has said he believes the Constitution doesn't evolve, but instead must be interpreted the way the framers viewed the nation over 200 years ago.

"He has expressed support for originalism, which does not take into account the changes in American society,” Townsend said. "And he has voted repeatedly to prevent women from receiving access to basic health care."

Moonen said Gorsuch's ruling in the landmark Hobby Lobby case gave a very broad interpretation of the right to free exercise of religion, and runs contrary to protections hard won by minorities and gay people.

"We think that could allow an employer to hire or fire an LGBT person based on their sexual orientation or gender identity; would allow landlords to use their religion as an excuse not to rent an apartment to someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity,” he said.

The Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman has suggested the confirmation process for Gorsuch will take about six weeks.

Mike Clifford, Public News Service - ME