While answering a question about how she would rule in potential Supreme Court cases involving LGBTQ+ people’s rights during her confirmation hearing Tuesday, Judge Amy Coney Barrett used the term “sexual preference” — a term classified as “offensive” by GLAAD.
Barrett used the term while denouncing discrimination against gay and lesbian people, during questioning by Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein, D-California.
“Senator, I have no agenda, and I do want to be clear: I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference,” Barrett said. “Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent.”
Later in the day, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, followed up with Barrett about the term.
“Sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term. 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,” Hirono said.
In response, Barrett apologized, saying “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community. So if I did, I greatly apologize for that.”
The term “sexual preference” is generally deemed to be outdated. On its website, GLAAD lists the term on its website as “one to avoid” as it implies that sexuality is a “choice” that can be “cured.”
Instead, GLAAD says the preferred term to use is “sexual orientation,” saying it is the “accurate description” of “an individual’s enduring physical, romantic and/or emotional attraction” to another person.
Prior to Barrett’s initial comment, Feinstein asked how she would rule in potential cases regarding LGBTQ+ rights given the judge’s relationship with Justice Antonin Scalia, who dissented in the case that gave gay people the right to marry in 2015.
While Barrett gave credit to Scalia, her former mentor, in her opening statements, she stated multiple times during Tuesday’s questioning that she would be her own judge.
“You’ll be getting Justice Barrett, not Justice Scalia,” if confirmed, Barrett said Tuesday.