NASW withholds support of Senate confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to be U.S. Supreme Court Justice

The National Association of Social Workers (NASW) is withholding support for the Senate confirmation of Judge Neil Gorsuch to become a U.S. Supreme Court Justice. Although Judge Gorsuch’s judicial record is relatively sparse as it relates to the foremost issues of the day there are indications his judicial philosophy may conflict with social work values.

President Trump on Jan. 31 nominated Judge Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court to fill the vacancy left by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia in February 2016.

As qualified as Judge Gorsuch might appear based his academic and judicial resume, we must remember he is a candidate for a “stolen seat.”

Republican leaders announced last March that they would not consider any nominee put forth by President Obama although the former president had 10 months left in his term and other justices, including Anthony Kennedy, had been confirmed in the final year of office of other presidents. In fact during the last century five Supreme Court justices have been nominated and confirmed during a presidential election year.

Here are some reasons why NASW is withholding support for the Senate confirmation of Judge Gorsuch:

Civil Rights and Human Rights

The Supreme Court nominee’s views of the historical importance of the U.S. Supreme Court as a safeguard for protecting the rights of all Americans are spotty. Gorsuch in a recent article harshly criticized those who turn to the courts to overturn egregious civil and human rights abuses.

In discussing the seminal desegregation case, Brown v. Board of Education, Judge Gorsuch wrote:

“There’s no doubt that constitutional lawsuits have secured critical civil-rights victories, with the desegregation cases culminating in Brown v. Board of Education topping the list. But rather than use the judiciary for extraordinary cases…American liberals have become addicted to the courtroom, relying on judges and lawyers rather than elected leaders and the ballot box, as the primary means of effecting their social agenda on everything from gay marriage to assisted suicide to the use of vouchers for private-school education.”

The social work profession is acutely aware of the degree to which the federal courts system, especially the U.S. Supreme Court, aided the country in correcting civil and human rights wrongs. That Judge Gorsuch could downplay the importance of the federal judiciary in protecting the rights of African Americans, women, people living with disabilities and people who are LGBTQ, among others, is deeply concerning.

Women’s Reproductive Rights

Another glimpse into Judge Gorsuch’s positions is his opinions on women’s reproductive health issues. Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., which was filed as a challenge to the Affordable Care Act, was critical in determining the constitutionality of allowing a business to deny female employees access to contraception based on the religious beliefs of its owners.

In his vote as a justice on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals, Judge Gorsuch supported the opinion that corporations had the same rights as individuals in deciding not to offer coverage that they deem to be against their religious beliefs.

This ruling opened the door to denial of female employee’s access to certain contraceptives through Affordable Care Act subsidized health insurance. The Supreme Court ultimately upheld the 10th Circuit’s opinion.

In its statement on Judge Gorsuch’s nomination, NARAL Pro-Choice America viewed the underlying premise of Judge Gorsuch’s support of the opinion as reflecting an anti-choice bent. NARAL’s view was also based on the fact Judge Gorsuch wrote an anti-choice dissent in a case challenging the Utah governor’s executive action to defund Planned Parenthood Association of Utah.

NARAL is concerned that “he is supporting an agenda that undermines abortion access and endangers women — there is no doubt that Gorsuch is a direct threat to Roe v. Wade and the promise it holds for women’s equality.”

Money in Politics Workers- Favoring Corporate Interests

NASW and other social justice organizations are concerned that Judge Gorsuch will side with corporate interests on cases such as Citizens United v. FEC, which involved campaign contributions from corporations and non-profit groups.

NASW worries Judge Gorsuch will serve in the mode of the late Judge Antonin Scalia, which would mean favoring unlimited money in the country’s elections with little or no transparency about the identity of donors. This would also mean that the wealthiest people in our nation will continue to expand their disproportionate influence on our democracy and it would further limit the ability of low-income and vulnerable American individuals and families to have their voices heard.

There are several other areas — such as Judge Gorsuch’s advocacy for gun rights, support for the death penalty, and opposition to assisted suicide — that raise concerns about his positions on civil and human rights and social justice matters.

Therefore, NASW asks the Senate Judiciary Committee to diligently and thoroughly examine Judge Gorsuch’s judicial temperament and opinions on a wide range of civil rights, human rights, and economic justice issues. It is crucial the U.S. Supreme Court reach a full complement of justices and that these justices be fair-minded and compassionate and consider the needs of all Americans.

For more information on this statement, contact:

Mel Wilson, Manager
Social Justice and Human Rights   



  1. It’s interesting how often those who are criticizing NASW’s position on the Gorsuch nomination invoke the Second Amendment. What about the amendments which gave the vote to African-Americans and women? The fact that there are Constitutional Amendments speaks to the flexibility of the Constitution to reflect the ever-changing thinking of our society. The Second Amendment was drafted when we were a relatively small country and when the most lethal of weapons owned by citizens were rifles, usually for hunting. And religious freedom did not mean imposing yours on others’. Let’s be real: the Constitution was never intended to facilitate a corporate take-over of our country, nor restrict the right to vote of any constituency.
    People know a con most of the time and they know when a candidate for any public office, including the Supreme Court, won’t answer questions from Senators honestly and openly. Is remaining silent on direct questions of women’s rights and corporate influence on our elections an appropriate response from a nominee for Supreme Court Justice? I think not…I know it’s not! Let’s not play games with the future of our country and its promise for us, our parents, our children and grandchildren. Maybe we should revisit the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
    I am proud of NASW and our profession’s growth in direct practice expertise. But I am even prouder to be a social worker as part of our wider understanding of how our environment affects us. And what is it that we actually do in partnership with our clients? We help them advocate for themselves. In these times especially, we should take a page from our own playbook and advocate for all of us!

  2. This position statement clearly defines NASW as a liberal PAC, not a professional association. To advocate against religious freedom, 2nd Amendment rights and firm adherence to the law…is this really the caring profession Social Work claims to be?

    Furthermore, to advocate for government control of business and the class warfare incited by this statement, clearly demonstrates the Socialist position of this association.

    Shouldn’t we, as a profession, advocate for advancement within the profession without punishing those who are financially successful in our careers? At what income bracket does one go from being a person worth advocating for, versus becoming an enemy of the profession? If I make six figures, am I still a Social Worker?

  3. As a social worker I do not support anyone who does not support the rights of all people, including those that are disenfranchised and or marginalized. As a social worker the mission is to service, social justice, the importance of human relations, dignity and worth of the person, integrity and competence. I am not sure if we can trust our government officials to abide by what we as social workers believe in. I base my judgement on the fact that the Judge Gorsuch downplayed the importance of having a federal judicial system in place to protect the rights of people is troubling to me as a social worker. The fact of the matter is that the U.S. Supreme court is there to protect human rights!!!

  4. Many social workers support the nomination of judge gorsuch

  5. Scott D. Barrish, BSW

    QUOTE: As qualified as Judge Gorsuch might appear based his academic and judicial resume, we must remember he is a candidate for a “stolen seat.”

    ANSWER: The US Senate does not have a duty to call for a hearing on a nominee. Until such time as a hearing is conducted and voted on favorably, the nominee isn’t advanced to the Senate floor for confirmation.


    QUOTE: “The Supreme Court nominee’s views of the historical importance of the U.S. Supreme Court as a safeguard for protecting the rights of all Americans are spotty. Gorsuch in a recent article harshly criticized those who turn to the courts to overturn egregious civil and human rights abuses.”

    ANSWER: Supreme court Justice Nominee Gorsuch believes in strict interpretation of the Constitution and laws, not legislating from the bench. … That’s called SEPARATION OF POWERS … A fundamental concept in our form of government.

    SECTION: Women’s Reproductive Rights


    Planned Parenthood case – Public funding should not be used to fund abortions. This is not the same as saying abortions are outlawed. This is often times conflated.

    Hobby Lobby case – If I am seeking employment with a company, not matter the size of the business, if it espouses a religious core value system as part of its goods and services, would it be to my benefit to seek employment there if my religious core values are not aligned?

    QUOTE: “This would also mean that the wealthiest people in our nation will continue to expand their disproportionate influence on our democracy and it would further limit the ability of low-income and vulnerable American individuals and families to have their voices heard.”

    ANSWER: First, our system of government is NOT a democracy. It is a constitutional republic.

    Second, in your own statement, you are disenfranchising the powerful voice of the voter. Yes, every vote counts. It is the responsibility of the voter to sift through all the information available to them as to what is true or fake; what’s important to them; and get to the polls either by mailing in a ballot, early voting or on election day. NO EXCUSES.

    Third, the 2nd Amendment is a FUNDAMENTAL and CONSTITUTIONAL right. I can provide case briefs as to why this is, but I’m sure you read the Heller and McDonald USSC rulings. Now, do you as an organization choose to ignore a FUNDAMENTAL and CONSTITUTIONAL right such as the 2nd Amendment because you choose not to own or carry a firearm for lawful self-defense? That’s your right to or not to. I won’t chastise you for electing the latter, but don’t chastise me and others that do exercise their FUNDAMENTAL and CONSTITUTIONAL right to keep and bear arms.


    So, what specifically are you against with this Supreme Court Nominee?

    • Scott Kampschaefer

      Your conclusion is a question. You clearly went to alot of trouble to make your points, and maybe lost sight of the fundamental nature of Gorsuch’s record, which favors corporations over people. That goes against a core social work value; unless you think corporations are people, too.

    • Corporations are people too. They include the people who built the corporation, the people who work in corporations, the customers of the corporation, stockholders of the corporation, and anyone else who benefits from the corporation’s services.

      De-humanizing those corporations that hire people and provide marketable goods and services is a primary weapon of class warfare. As I recall, Social Workers are ethically bound to serve all people without discrimination.

    • Corporation very often do not have any investment in the welfare of the people who work for them. They may try to convince you they do but they do not. Their sole purpose is financial and their bottom line. They have only regulatory and no real civic responsibility unless it benefits their bottom line. They can fire at will if you do not toe the line and if you are the major employer in town your workers do not have the luxury of finding employment else where. The people who built the corporation and own the corporation who are stockholders of that corporation already have one vote. Let them use it outside of the business. A corporation is not human it is an organization based on a medieval style hierarchy of power.

    • Andrea,

      So, according to your view of business, it appears you don’t want anyone to become financially successful including the employees of that business.

      Why shouldn’t an employee be fired if “you do not toe the line”? Performance expectations are usually clearly stated by employers. It’s up to the company to provide goods and services to meet the Voice of the Customer. Customers vote with their wallets in business situations.

      According to your view, you should boycott WalMart, Target, Publix, Lowes, Home Depot, third party insurance, home builders, hotel chains, movie theaters, Amazon, Hobby Lobby, Chick-fil-A, McDonald’s, cruiselines, chain restaurants, Q-Tips, soft drinks and anything that is made/created/sold by a corporate entity in the U.S. This will eliminate hundreds of thousands of jobs for the people for whom we’re supposed to advocate.

  6. Wow, I stopped reading when you said “stolen seat”. Somebody please press charges.

    • It was a stolen seat. This whole administration has an impact on Social works ethics. Just ask my clients.

  7. Thank you for standing up and speaking out!

  8. I am in agreement with NASW that Judge Gorsuch judicial temperament be diligently & thoroughly examined in all areas of human rights, civil rights
    Economic justice issues. It is imperative that all justices be compassionate and fair minded when dealing with the needs of each American.

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