Democrat scolds Barrett for using 'anti-LGBT' term ‘sexual preference;’ Biden, Obama used same words

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, scolds Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for her use of the term 'sexual preference,' Oct. 13, 2020.
Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, scolds Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for her use of the term "sexual preference," Oct. 13, 2020. | Screenshot: YouTube/PBS Ne

Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, chastised Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett Tuesday for using the term “sexual preference,” claiming that the words are “offensive,” despite members of her own party, including Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden, also using the same term.

When questioning Barrett during her second day of confirmation hearings, Hirono expressed disappointment that the nominee declined to “give a direct answer” on whether she agreed with the 2015 Supreme Court decision Obergefell v. Hodges that legalized same-sex marriage nationwide. She also took issue with Barrett’s use of the term sexual preference when answering a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on the topic.

“Let me be clear, sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term,” Hirono said. “It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists 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,” she added. “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 spent the rest of her time with Barrett attempting to tie the nominee to Justice Antonin Scalia, whom she expressed admiration for in her opening remarks Monday.

Hirono went through a list of Scalia’s dissents on Supreme Court decisions on LGBT cases and suggested that Barrett would share Scalia’s resistance to “recognizing those in the LGBTQ community as having equal rights under our Constitution.”

While Hirono did not give Barrett an opportunity to explain her use of the term sexual preference, the topic came up again later in the evening when Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., was questioning the nominee. “When you did use the term sexual preference earlier today rather than sexual orientation, is there a difference and what is it?” he asked.

Barrett stressed that she “did not mean to imply that I think that … it’s not an immutable characteristic or that it’s solely a matter of preference,” adding, “I honestly did not mean any offense or to make any statement by that.” Booker asked her if she believed “one’s sexuality is not a preference, it is who they are.”

“I was not trying to make any comment on it. I fully respect all the rights of the LGBT community, Obergefell is an important precedent of the court. I reject any kind of discrimination on any sort of basis,” she replied.

President Donald Trump’s campaign team took to Twitter to show the American people that Barrett is not the only prominent political figure to have used the term sexual preference. “The Left said Amy Coney Barrett was bigoted because she used the term ‘sexual preference.’ Here’s Joe Biden using the same term in May,” The Trump War Room tweeted.

The tweet included a five-second video of Biden using the term sexual preference. According to Fox News, Biden used the term during a virtual campaign event. 

Steve Krakauer, an executive producer for the "Megyn Kelly Show" and editor of the media newsletter FourthWatch, shared two separate screenshots of Webster’s Dictionary’s definition of the word “preference.”

“As recently as last month, Webster’s Dictionary included a definition of ‘preference’ as ‘orientation’ or ‘sexual preference.’ TODAY they changed it and added the word ‘offensive,’” he tweeted.

Recent articles from mainstream media outlets also used the term sexual preference.

A 2014 article from The Atlantic noted that “President Barack Obama has asked members of his staff to draft an executive order that would make it illegal to discriminate against LGBT employees of federal contractors on the basis of their sexual preference or gender identification.”

According to an Associated Press article written in 2018, “issues of sexual preference or gender never became a prominent topic” in the 2018 Colorado gubernatorial race.

Less than three weeks ago, The Advocate, a magazine focused on LGBT advocacy, published an article featuring a quote from openly gay director Kenny Ortega. In the article, Ortega shared his ability to tell stories about “young people who are just comfortable with who they are, no matter what their sexual preference is.”

On Tuesday, The Advocate published an article noting that Barrett was “blasted for anti-LGBTQ+ term ‘sexual preference.’” The article contended that “the term ‘sexual preference,’ while accepted decades ago, is now considered inaccurate and offensive by LGBTQ+ people because of its implication that people choose their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

The magazine’s publication of Ortega’s quote using the term, as well as the aforementioned news articles, suggest that the term was accepted as recently as 18 days ago, until Barrett used the phrase.

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