(Screengrab from PBS NewsHour‘s Official YouTube Account)
California Senator Dianne Feinstein asked Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett regarding her stance on equal rights during the confirmation hearing on Tuesday.
Specifically, Sen. Feinstein asked Barrett if she would “be a consistent vote to roll back hard-fought freedoms and protections for the LGBT community” like her mentor, the late Justice Antonin Scalia, if she were confirmed.
Barrett said that discrimination on the basis of sexual preference is “abhorrent.” She, however, refused to answer Sen. Feinstein’s question. Take a look at her statement below:
I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. You know, like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent. On the questions of law, however, I just—because I’m a sitting judge and because you can’t answer questions without going through the judicial process—can’t give answers to those very specific questions.
It was not the only question with which Barrett had refused to give a direct answer.
She was also asked about her stance on the upcoming Affordable Care Act case and whether or not she will support the overturning of Roe v. Wade.
Barrett, however, declined to give a clear response on both issues as well making Sen. Feinstein in the end, say, “On something that is a major cause with major effects on half the population…it’s distressing to not get a straight answer.”
Moreover, Barrett alarmed various LGBT groups with her use of the phrase ‘sexual preference’ including Senator Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii). The latter rebuked Barrett for using the phrase, saying it is “offensive and outdated.”
“Even though you didn’t give a direct answer, I think your response did speak volumes not once but twice. You used the term sexual preference to describe those in the LGBTQ community. And let me make clear, sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term,” Sen. Hirono said.
Further, Sen. Hirono explained, “It is used by anti-LGBTQ activist to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not. Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity, that sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority’s opinion in Obergefell.”
Watch the moment happen below:
Let me make clear – sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term.— Senator Mazie Hirono (@maziehirono) October 13, 2020
To suggest sexual orientation is a choice? It's not. It's a key part of a person's identity.
The LGBTQ+ community should be concerned with #WhatsAtStake with Judge Barrett on the Supreme Court. pic.twitter.com/4TWyATMX0Y
For its part, the Meriam-Webster dictionary has now updated its definition for the word “preference,” PinkNews UK reports. They added the following: “The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”
Barrett later apologized for using the term “sexual preference,” saying, “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community.” She also clarified that her refusal to respond directly to the question was “certainly not indicating disagreement with [Obergefell].”
Meanwhile, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) asked Barrett about her “close ties” with Blackstone Legal Fellowship—a project of the anti-LGBTQ hate group Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF). According to Washington Blade, Sen. Leahy asked Barrett if she was “familiar with the law firm’s filings in support of keeping same-sex relations criminalized in the United States, and recriminalizing them abroad.”
Sen. Leahy said:
They celebrated when India restored a law punishing sodomy with 10 years in prison. Now I don’t—whether you believe being gay is right or wrong is irrelevant to me, but my concern is you worked with an organization working to criminalize people for loving a person that they’re in love with. So, that’s what worries me.
Barrett, on the other hand, downplayed her involvement with them, saying, “As you said, I gave a one-hour lecture on originalism. I didn’t read all the material that students were given to read. That had nothing to do with my lecture. I enjoyed teaching the students about what my specialty was, which was constitutional law.”
Barrett added, “Nothing about any of my interactions with anyone involved in Blackstone were ever indicative of any kind of discrimination on the basis of anything.”
It can be remembered that Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) represented R.G. & G.R. Harris Funeral Homes, Inc. against the late Aimee Stephens, a funeral director for almost six years at the aforementioned funeral home.
Ms. Stephens was promptly fired after coming out to her workplace as a transgender woman. The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled last June that it is illegal for employers to fire workers simply for being gay or transgender because this violates Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Read more about this here.
During an interview with Washington Blade, a legal director for Lambda Legal named Sharon McGowan condemned Barrett for her refusal to denounce ADF.
McGowan said, “Clearly, Judge Barrett sees no inherent problem with her affiliation with ADF, which is deeply problematic to us and should be to anyone who cares about LGBTQ people and our families.” She added, “ADF is among the largest, best known, and most extreme of the many anti-LGBT legal organizations, so her claim that she isn’t aware of their hostility toward LGBTQ people is disingenuous at best.” Read more of this story here and here.
Netizens of course, have things to say about the confirmation hearing:
We have the receipts. Three years ago, Barrett was pressed about her affiliation with ADF & was told about their disgusting anti-LGBTQ actions.— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) October 13, 2020
She can't deny it: She had the group's leader join her Rose Garden superspreader nomination party. #WeDissent https://t.co/5KYtOqvzSi pic.twitter.com/bLoq6I24pE
It’s not a sexual “preference,” Judge Barrett. A preference is something you choose. I’ll give you and example: “I have a preference for non-radical, non-fundamentalist justices on the Supreme Court.” Are we clear?— George Takei (@GeorgeTakei) October 13, 2020