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Barrett Apologizes for LGBTQ Language After Getting Criticized (1)

Oct. 13, 2020, 9:58 PMUpdated: Oct. 13, 2020, 10:23 PM

Amy Coney Barrett apologized for language she used to characterize LGBTQ people at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Barrett used the term “sexual preference” when answering a question about her views on marriage equality. LGBTQ groups quickly criticized her choice of words, which implies being LGBTQ is a choice.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) asked Barrett later about the choice of words which Hirono described as “an offensive and outdated term.”

“If it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference, as you noted, then the LGBTQ community should be rightly concerned whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry,” Hirono said.

Barrett later said, “I certainly didn’t mean, and would never mean, to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community. If I did, I greatly apologize for that.”

In a later round of questioning, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) asked Barrett again about her use of the term and whether she thought there was a difference between “sexual preference” and “sexual orientation.”

“Senator, I really in using that word did not mean to imply that I think that it’s not a matter of - that it’s not an immutable characteristic or that it’s solely a matter of preference. I honestly did not mean any offense or to make any statement by that,” Barrett said in response.

She added: “I fully respect all the rights of the LGBTQ community. Oberegfell is an important precedent of the court.”

In 2015, the Supreme Court held in Obergefell v. Hodges that states couldn’t deny same sex couples the right to marry.

LGBTQ groups largely oppose Barrett’s confirmation. Lambda Legal, a group that advocates for LGBTQ rights, called Barrett’s use of the term a “dogwhistle.”

(Updates with Booker exchange.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Kimberly Strawbridge Robinson in Washington at krobinson@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com; John Crawley at jcrawley@bloomberglaw.com