In discussing LGBTQ rights, Supreme Court candidate Amy Coney Barrett on Tuesday used a term that LGBTQ activists have termed "offensive", "out of date" and "dog whistle".
"I don't have an agenda and want to make it clear that I have never discriminated based on sexual preference and would never discriminate based on sexual preference," Barrett said when asked about her stance on protecting the LGBTQ community.
However, the term "sexual preference" is offensive, suggesting that sexual orientation is a choice, Lambda Legal, a legal advocacy group, explained on Twitter.
Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) said the term was a 1970s term. And Slates Mark Joseph Stern collapsed why Barrett's use was so worrying:
As Jesse Bering explained in 2013, the term is similar to other expressions such as “gay lifestyle” or “avowed homosexual” that used to be common but are now considered offensive. These sentences play into the anti-gay canard that sexual minorities are not a discrete and island-shaped minority that deserves constitutional protection, but deviants who should not be rewarded for their deviant sexuality.
Sens. Mazie Hirono and Cory Booker later confronted Barrett with her testimony and asked her to apologize. "Sexual orientation is an integral part of a person's identity," said Hirono.
The correct term is sexual orientation. "Sexual preference" is a term often used by anti-LGBTQ activists to imply that sexual orientation is a choice. https://t.co/rT6g95gsG1
– GLAAD (@glaad) October 13, 2020
Barrett's apology, however, was also telling, signaling that she apparently hadn't even realized she was using malicious language.
"I never wanted and never wanted to use a term that offends the LGBTQ community," Barrett said. “If I did, I apologize very much for it. I just wanted to refer to Obergefell's stance on same-sex marriage. "
Obergefell v. Hodges, the landmark Supreme Court guaranteeing marriage equality case, is one of the precedents Barrett refused to comment on, highlighting the need to maintain impartiality – an approach many candidates have in the past have chosen.
However, her "sexual preference" testimony showed how contactless Barrett appears to be when speaking about LGBTQ rights, which she would play a crucial role in court decisions about whether she would become a Supreme Court judge.
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