Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch, pressed about his record on LGBTQ rights, said Tuesday the top court has ruled that the Constitution protects same-sex marriage.
During the second day of Gorsuch's Senate confirmation hearings, the 49-year-old conservative appeals judge defended his work amid concerns from some Democrats and progressive groups about his potential effect on LGBTQ rights. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., questioned Gorsuch about his claims that he applied equal protection to all people.
"What about LGBTQ individuals?" Durbin asked.
"What about them? They're people," Gorsuch said.
"Of course," Durbin said. "What you said earlier was that you had a record of speaking out, standing up for those minorities who you believe are not being treated fairly. Can you point to statements or cases you've ruled on relative to that class?"
"Senator, I've tried to treat each case and each person as a person — not a 'this kind of person,' not a 'that kind of person' — a person. Equal justice under law. It is a radical promise in the history of mankind," Gorsuch said.
"Does that refer to sexual orientation, as well?" Durbin asked.
"Senator, the Supreme Court of the United States has held that single-sex marriage is protected by the Constitution," Gorsuch responded.
In the landmark 2015 Obergefell v. Hodges ruling, the top U.S. court recognized in a 5-4 decision the right for same-sex couples to marry. The late Justice Antonin Scalia, whom Gorsuch has called an inspiration, wrote a dissenting opinion. Gorsuch is being considered for the seat left vacant by Scalia's death last year.
Republicans hold 52 seats in the 100-member chamber, and may need at least eight Democratic votes to confirm Gorsuch if they decide not to trigger a "nuclear option" rules change that would only require a majority. Many Democrats have dug in against confirming Gorsuch after Republicans did not hold a hearing for Merrick Garland, whom President Barack Obama nominated for the same seat.