Neil M. Gorsuch joins the Supreme Court just in time to cast potentially significant votes in cases that pit religious liberty against gay rights, test limits on funding for church schools and challenge California’s restrictions on carrying a concealed gun in public.
Such issues arise either in appeals filed by conservative groups that have been pending before the justices for weeks or in cases to be heard later this month.
Gorsuch’s votes in those matters may give an early sign of whether the court’s conservatives — with their 5-4 majority restored by his confirmation — will pursue an activist agenda.
The cases include a Colorado baker’s claim that he deserves a faith-based exemption from the state’s anti-discrimination law after he refused to design a wedding cake for a gay couple. The justices have been considering his appeal behind closed doors since December, but have taken no action.
The delay may mean one of the justices has been writing a dissent from the majority’s refusal to hear the appeal, or perhaps that the conservatives have been awaiting the ninth justice. Gorsuch is set to be sworn in Monday morning, and when the justices meet in their next private conference on Thursday morning, the new justice will be there.
If the court agrees to take up the issue, “I think Justice Gorsuch would be with us,” said Jeremy Tedesco, a lawyer for the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Arizona-based group that appealed on behalf of the Masterpiece Cakeshop and its owner, Jack Phillips.
Read more at The Los Angeles Times.