I caught a few minutes of Sen. Al Franken (D-MN) questioning Neil Gorsuch at his Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday afternoon, including the part where Mr. Franken asked him point-blank where he stood on marriage equality.
Sen. Franken asked Judge Gorsuch how he felt volunteering to help re-elect President George W. Bush knowing that same-sex couples were facing having their relationships attacked as unequal.
“The amendments sent a clear message to lesbian and gay couples that their unions were not equal in the eyes of the law,” Franken said. “How’d you feel about the right to marry being put to the popular vote?”
Dodging, and saying he didn’t remember any involvement in the push to ban marriage, Gorsuch was then asked how he felt about marriage being banned for same-sex couples.
“My personal views? Any revelation of my personal views on this matter would indicate to people how I might rule as a judge – mistakenly, but it might,” Gorsuch insisted.
After reading a statement made by Ken Mehlman, who came out as gay several years ago, Franken asked Gorsuch how his views on marriage have changed since the 2004 election.
“Senator, my personal views, if I were to begin speaking about my personal views on this subject which every American has views on, would send a misleading signal to the American people – ”
“It is settled law,” Franken interjected.”
“It is absolutely settled law,” Gorsuch acknowledged. “There’s ongoing litigation about its application, and its impact, right now, and I cannot begin to share my personal views without suggesting mistakenly – ”
Franken again interjected and moved on.
This whole kabuki of asking a Supreme Court nominee a question like that isn’t to get him or her to come out and actually make a statement. We all know that they’re going to dodge the questions just as Mr. Gorsuch did. We saw that from every nominee going all the way back to Sandra Day O’Connor, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a nominee from a Democratic president — assuming they even get a hearing — or a Republican.
So why bother? Why go through all of this ritual knowing that they will hedge and dodge and then once they’re on the court do exactly what the president who appointed him and the groups that backed him hired him to do? Once he’s on the court it’s too late; he can’t be fired. (It should be noted that presidents of both parties have been sandbagged by their own appointees.)
In this case I don’t think it’s aimed at Judge Gorsuch so much as it is at the senators who will vote to confirm his appointment. I fully expect the Republicans to back him all the way, but I will be interested to hear from any Democrats who vote in favor of him how they can justify their vote after what the Republicans did to Barack Obama and Merrick Garland. I’d like to see how they dodge that question.