Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights

Democrats ripped Eugene Scalia, President TrumpDonald John TrumpSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate US sending 20,000 troops to Europe for largest exercises since Cold War Barr criticizes FBI, says it's possible agents acted in 'bad faith' in Trump probe MORE's nominee to lead the Labor Department, over his views on LGBTQ rights at a hearing on Thursday, arguing his past writings made them question how he could fairly administer the law for that community.

Scalia, the son of the late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, said his views had evolved over time and that he would faithfully execute the law, but that did not appear to move Democrats on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee.  

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“My worry is that your views have not necessarily matured as the country’s have,” Sen. Chris MurphyChristopher (Chris) Scott MurphyWhy the Democrats' impeachment drive is in trouble — and what Nancy Pelosi needs to do about it The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - A crucial week on impeachment Senate braces for brawl on Trump impeachment rules MORE (D-Conn.) told Scalia after referencing a 1985 article the nominee wrote that said he didn’t think being gay should be treated as equally acceptable or desirable as the traditional family life. 

Scalia responded that he had written the article 35 years ago as a college student, and that he “certainly” had changed in a number of ways since then. 

“I think we’ve all matured … since those days and I would certainly enforce the law in this area and respect the decisions of the Supreme Court,” he said.

After Murphy asked him again how his views had changed, Scalia said, “I would not write those words today. In part because I now have friends and colleagues to whom — that they would cause pain. I would not want to do that.”

Under questioning from Sen. Tim KaineTimothy (Tim) Michael KaineOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills 'Granite Express' flight to take staffers, journalists to NH after Iowa caucuses MORE (D-Va.), Scalia said he believed that LGBTQ Americans were entitled to equal protection under the law and that it would be wrong for an employer to terminate someone based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

“I do believe it’s wrong,” he said in response to a direct question from Kaine.

Democrats are unlikely to be able to block Scalia’s confirmation. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and it does not appear that any GOP members are opposed to Scalia.

HELP Committee Chairman Lamar AlexanderAndrew (Lamar) Lamar AlexanderOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Life after Yucca Mountain: The time has come to reset US nuclear waste policy MORE (R-Tenn.) opened the hearing by stating that Scalia is “altogether well qualified for this job.” 

In her opening statement, Sen. Patty MurrayPatricia (Patty) Lynn MurrayOvernight Health Care — Presented by That's Medicaid — Deal on surprise medical bills faces obstacles | House GOP unveils rival drug pricing measure ahead of Pelosi vote | Justices to hear case over billions in ObamaCare payments Obstacles remain for deal on surprise medical bills Key House and Senate health leaders reach deal to stop surprise medical bills MORE (Wash.), the panel’s top Democrat, called Scalia an “elite corporate lawyer who has spent his career fighting for corporations and against workers.” 

And Democrats repeatedly returned to the theme of how Scalia would treat the LGBTQ community.

Murphy noted that Scalia recently joined the board of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, a conservative think tank that Murphy said advocates against the civil rights of LGBT people.

Scalia called the center “a respected organization,” noting it has been praised by former Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanHouse Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea Duncan Hunter pleads guilty after changing plea Trump campaign steps up attacks on Biden MORE (R-Wis.). He added that his participation on the board “says nothing about what my views might be on a number of different issues.”

Kaine also questioned Scalia on disability rights, an issue where his views have also received scrutiny. Scalia successfully defended UPS in a class-action suit in 2009 when employees who were injured on the job argued the company violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. The workers said the company didn’t provide accommodations that would allow those injured on the job to return to work.

Kaine asked Scalia about a 1938 law that allows employers to pay wages less than the federal minimum wage to disabled workers.

“That, as you say, is a long-standing provision. If Congress were to change it, obviously the Labor Department would change its approach accordingly,” Scalia said.

The committee is expected to vote on Scalia’s nomination on Tuesday. It’s unclear whether Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersSanders urges impeachment trial 'quickly' in the Senate The media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenThe media have fallen out of love with Bernie, but have voters? Buttigieg surrogate on candidate's past consulting work: 'I don't think it matters' Steyer rolls out 5B plan to invest in historically black colleges MORE (D-Mass.), two presidential candidates who sit on the panel, will be present. Both were absent on Thursday.

Scalia would replace former Labor Secretary Alexander AcostaAlex Alexander AcostaThe Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington On The Money: Senate confirms Scalia as Labor chief | Bill with B in wall funding advanced over Democrats' objections | Lawyers reach deal to delay enforcement of NY tax return subpoena Sanders calls Eugene Scalia's Labor Dept. confirmation 'obscene' MORE, who resigned amid questions over a plea deal he brokered more than a decade ago as a U.S. attorney for the late sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Scalia, 55, is a partner at the law firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher and is a member and former co-chairman of its labor and employment practice group. He also co-chairs the firm’s administrative law and regulatory practice group.

He also served as solicitor of the Labor Department from 2002 to 2003 after his appointment by former President George W. Bush.

He was introduced at the Thursday hearing by former Labor Department Secretary and current Transportation Secretary Elaine ChaoElaine Lan ChaoPelosi gets standing ovation at Kennedy Center Honors Lobbying world Democratic chairman presses Transportation secretary over transparency in Boeing 737 Max probe MORE.