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Textualism is a method of statutory interpretation that asserts that a statute should be interpreted according to its plain meaning and not according to the intent of the legislature, the statutory purpose, or the legislative history.

Justice Antonin Scalia was considered one of the pioneers of originalism and textualism.

Even if the textualist approach is commonly regarded as a conservative approach to the law, the rigor of its application can lead to progressive outcomes.

In Bostock v. Clayton Cnty., 140 U.S. 1731, 1734 (2020), Justice Neil Gorsuch (also widely viewed as Justice Scalia’s heir) delivered an opinion prohibiting employment discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity with his reasoning based on textualism.

[Last updated in March of 2022 by the Wex Definitions Team]