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Biden’s Supreme Court nominee refuses to define the word 'woman'

Ketanji Brown Jackson
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee in the Hart Senate Office Building on Capitol Hill, March 22, 2022 in Washington, D.C. |

Did President Biden keep his promise to nominate a black woman to the U.S. Supreme Court? At first glance, that seems like an absurd question. Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson is a black woman. However, this past week's interaction between Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) and Judge Jackson makes that point confusing.

Supreme Court confirmation hearings can be heady affairs. Although the topics of judicial philosophy, legal principles, and how to interpret the Constitution are vitally important to the functioning of our legal system, most Americans do not often consider them. Stare decisis, unenumerated rights, and originalism are simply not part of most people’s daily conversations with their friends or family members. As a result, the Senate Judiciary Committee’s four-day-long hearing on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson to be an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court has likely proven dull for many people. 

However, likely lost among the hours of questioning in Tuesday’s confirmation hearing was a fascinating exchange between Judge Jackson and Sen. Blackburn.  During her questioning, Blackburn asked the nominee to define the word “woman.”

“Can you provide a definition of the word ‘woman’?” Blackburn asked. After a brief pause, Jackson answered, “No, I can’t.” Incredulous, Blackburn replied, “You can’t?” “Not in this context; I’m not a biologist,” the judge responded.

Initially, few news outlets reported on the exchange, and even most conservative court-watchers have focused on questioning by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) about critical race theory and Sen. Josh Hawley’s (R-Mo.) contention that Judge Jackson has been too lenient when sentencing sex offenders. But the exchange between Blackburn and Jackson is a massive cultural moment and reflects how deeply gender identity ideology has taken root in our national subconscious. In short, those pushing gender identity ideology that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago have been so successful in promoting their views that it is now deemed too risky to define a woman as an adult biological female. 

The promotion and acceptance of transgender ideology have accelerated the rampant gender confusion in our nation, and the events of the past few weeks underscore just how successful LGBTQ activists have been in converting the news media, Big Tech, the business community, and now, apparently, the judicial community, to their cause. Just within the past few weeks, we’ve seen a biological male crowned an NCAA champion in women’s swimming and USA Today declared Rachel Levine, a biological male serving in the Biden administration, as one of the newspaper’s “Women of the Year.” 

But even though there have been several stories in the news lately featuring those who identify as transgender, it is remarkable that someone nominated to the nation’s highest court is unwilling to define the word “woman.”  It raises the question of how Americans can trust someone to faithfully interpret the U.S. Constitution and apply the nation’s laws who lacks the courage to simply state biological facts. Nevertheless, here we are.

It would be ludicrous to think that Judge Jackson does not know what a woman is. Judge Jackson is a two-time Ivy League graduate. She has served on the federal judiciary for nearly a decade and has been seated on the nation’s second-most important court for almost a year. Without a doubt, Judge Jackson is highly intelligent. But her unwillingness to answer Sen. Blackburn’s question is a foreboding sign that gender identity ideology not only holds tremendous sway in the Democratic Party but has also taken hold in parts of the legal profession. Deference to partisan politics has no place in the judiciary.

President Biden promised to nominate a black woman to the nation’s highest court, and Judge Jackson meets both of those criteria. But the judge’s own refusal to define the word “woman” during her confirmation hearing is disturbing because it suggests an accommodation to a postmodern worldview unable to assert basic truths about human embodiment. Judge Jackson is a woman, and it shouldn’t be controversial to state this fact. Even those who may not agree with Judge Jackson’s judicial philosophy can acknowledge that Jackson’s nomination is historic and that many African American women are especially excited about her appointment. But the fact that the nominee herself cannot confidently answer a straightforward question that contradicts the far Left’s radical gender identity ideology is a sad and revealing commentary on the times. 

You don’t need to be a veterinarian to define what a cat is, a mechanic to define what a car is, a florist to define what a flower is, or a biologist to define what a woman is. But increasingly, you do need courage and a willingness to contradict the misguided zeitgeist of the age. On this point, Judge Jackson failed miserably.  Ultimately, if Judge Jackson cannot define what a woman is, it is troubling to think of how she will interpret and apply the nation’s laws. One can only hope she will find some courage if confirmed by the Senate to the Supreme Court.


Originally published at the Family Research Council. 

David Closson is the Director of Christian Ethics and Biblical Worldview at Family Research Council.

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