Conservatives cheered the opinions of Justice Neil Gorsuch, President Trump's pick to fill the Supreme Court vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia, as the high court's term came to a close Monday.
Although Gorsuch joined the high court in April, with only two months left in its term, Judicial Crisis Network chief counsel Carrie Severino said his actions have demonstrated "an indication of good things to come."
"[Gorsuch's actions] show him to be what we believed him to be: a solid constitutionalist, a solid textualist," Severino said.
On Monday, Gorsuch dissented from the high court's striking down of an Arkansas birth certificate law for same-sex couples and sided with Justice Clarence Thomas that the block on Trump's travel ban should not have been only partially lifted. He also joined Thomas' dissent from the Supreme Court's decision not to hear a Second Amendment controversy regarding carrying guns for self-defense. Last week, he and Thomas dissented in a 7-2 ruling over the judicial review process for complaints filed by federal employees.
He also joined Chief Justice John Roberts' opinion on Monday that a Missouri law that forbade state funds from going to a church playground was unconstitutional. But Gorsuch, as well as Thomas, disagreed with a distinction Roberts made in a footnote to the opinion.
"The court leaves open the possibility a useful distinction might be drawn between laws that discriminate on the basis of religious status and religious use," Gorsuch wrote. "Respectfully, I harbor doubts about the stability of such a line. Does a religious man say grace before dinner? Or does a man begin his meal in a religious manner?"
Acton Institute senior editor Joe Carter praised Gorsuch's concurring opinion in the Trinity Lutheran case on Monday. The Acton Institute is a think tank dedicated to "a free and virtuous society characterized by individual liberty and sustained by religious principles."
"In his first concurring opinion for the court, Gorsuch has established himself as a champion of religious freedom, and a justice willing to place limits on the power of the state," Carter said in an email. "By taking such a bold stand he's showing he may be the worthy successor to the great Justice Scalia we've been hoping for."
Severino, who formerly clerked for Thomas, noted that she was pleased to see Gorsuch aligned with Thomas on several cases. The Judicial Crisis Network played a large role in pushing for Gorsuch's confirmation.
Scalia's death provided a reason for many right-leaning voters and doctrinaire conservatives to pull the lever for Trump in November, and Gorsuch so far does not appear to have disappointed.
Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow at the libertarian Cato Institute, said Monday that Gorsuch has proved himself a "worthy successor to Scalia."
"He's the real deal," Shapiro said in a statement. "Those who hoped for (or feared) a smooth-writing textualist with strong views on the separation of powers got exactly what they expected. He's dived right into the melee and provides a refreshing voice on the [Supreme] Court."
The conservative Family Research Council also applauded Gorsuch Monday and suggested his actions provided a harbinger of things to come.
"With the recent addition of Justice Gorsuch, we are much more optimistic about the future of religious freedom in America," said Travis Weber, the council's director of the Center for Religious Liberty, in a statement. "The Supreme Court rightly found that the freedom of religion, including that of Trinity Lutheran, is clearly protected by the Constitution. Justice Gorsuch's presence will re-enforce a welcome originalist voice in not just the Trinity Lutheran case but also plenty of pivotal cases in the decades to come."
Liberals, meanwhile, fretted about what Gorsuch's presence on the Supreme Court will mean for years to come.
Gorsuch, alongside Justice Samuel Alito, joined Thomas' opinion saying that the Supreme Court should have removed all components of lower courts' blockade of Trump's travel ban.
In response, Hawaii Sen. Mazie Hirono labeled the justices the "three horsemen of the apocalypse."
"Neil Gorsuch is Clarence Thomas's Mini-Me," said Jeffrey Toobin, a progressive legal analyst, on Twitter.
Gorsuch dissented from the Supreme Court's opinion to strike down Arkansas' birth certificate law as unconstitutional because it contravened the high court's 2015 ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. Gorsuch dissented sharply, saying he thought the Supreme Court's summary reversal of the Arkansas Supreme Court decision was not warranted.
Harvard law professor Laurence Tribe viewed Gorsuch's dissent as reason to sound an alarm about the newest justice's jurisprudence.
"That Justice Gorsuch would dissent from this modest holding should wake up all who hoped he would display a modicum of constitutional wisdom," Tribe tweeted about Gorsuch's dissent.
The left-leaning Alliance for Justice said Gorsuch's opinions on Monday provide a "critical reminder that Supreme Court appointments have far-reaching consequences for our democracy."
"The rulings handed down today confirm that Justice Neil Gorsuch is staking out a position on the court's extreme right flank," said Nan Aron, Alliance for Justice president.