Missoula City Council urges Tester to oppose Sup Court nomination

President Trump and Neil Gorsuch smile as Trump nominated Gorsuch to be an associate justice of the Supreme Court at the White House. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

By Martin Kidston/Missoula Current

Seven members of the Missoula City Council have signed a letter urging Sen. Jon Tester to oppose the nomination of Neil Gorsuch to the U.S. Supreme Court, saying his appointment would threaten the city’s fundamental values and basic civil rights.

The City Council letter coincides with the release of a national ad campaign by People For the American Way, which calls upon viewers to tell their senators to oppose President Donald Trump’s nomination of Gorsuch to the nation’s highest court.

“We’re releasing this ad to shine a spotlight on the threat Judge Gorsuch poses to the American way,” said group president Michael Keegan. “We urge Americans across the country to call their senators and make clear that they expect their senators to stand up against Gorsuch, a Supreme Court nominee who prioritizes corporate interests over the constitutional rights that Americans rely on.”

Sent to Tester state director Dayna Swanson, the City Council’s letter also takes aim at Gorsuch’s legal record, including his siding with Hobby Lobby regarding women’s reproductive rights, and a dissent in which he argued that the governor of Utah should be able to defund Planned Parenthood.

The letter suggests that Gorsuch also has ruled in favor of big corporations, noting his efforts to restrict or eliminate legal tools used to fight corporate securities fraud.

Members of the council also expressed concern over Gorsuch’s support for so-called religious freedom laws that could, they fear, legalize discrimination against LGBTQ citizens.

“Americans deserve a judge who will prioritize the Constitution over extreme ideology, especially in our current political climate,” the council wrote. “We expect Sen. Tester to be a strong voice against this confirmation. Missoulians – and all Montanans – deserve better.”

The People For the American Way launched its new ad in 12 states, including Montana, Arizona, California and Nevada, detailing why it believes that Gorsuch is unfit to serve on the nation’s highest court.

Dave Wanzenried, a former state senator representing Missoula, also is urging Tester to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination. In doing so, he joins a number of state organizations that have lined up to oppose the appointment, including the Montana Human Rights Network and Forward Montana.

“I have some concerns about his positions, especially women’s reproductive health care,” Wanzenried said Monday. “It’s something I feel strongly about.”

Wanzenried noted a Jan. 3 poll by the Pew Research Center, which found that 69 percent of Americans believe the historic Roe v. Wade decision establishing a woman’s constitutional right to an abortion in the first three months of pregnancy should not be completely overturned.

“We need to turn our attention toward a lot of other pressing issues and move way from the question of abortion and start talking about women’s reproductive health and contraception,” Wanzenried said.

To get the 60 votes needed to approve Gorsuch’s nomination in the Senate, Republicans hope to lure eight Democrats up for re-election in 2018 in GOP-leaning states, or states that voted for Trump.

Those include Tester in Montana, along with senators in Indiana, North Dakota, West Virginia Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin and Maine. Tester told Reuters that he wanted to review Gorsuch’s record on women’s rights and other issues, adding that the judge’s stance on end-of-life issues “distresses me.”

“For me, it’s a matter of principle,” said Wanzenried. “We have to put principle above political expediency. There’s plenty of reasons in this case to oppose Gorsuch’s nomination.”

Contact reporter Martin Kidston at info@missoulacurrent.com