Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights

Democrats ripped Eugene Scalia, President TrumpDonald John TrumpWhite House sued over lack of sign language interpreters at coronavirus briefings Wife blames Trump, lack of masks for husband's coronavirus death in obit: 'May Karma find you all' Trump authorizes reduced funding for National Guard coronavirus response through 2020 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 MurphyDemocrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks Connecticut senators call for Subway to ban open carry of firearms Democrats optimistic about chances of winning Senate 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 KaineUSAID appointee alleges 'rampant anti-Christian sentiment' at agency Frustration builds as negotiators struggle to reach COVID-19 deal Pompeo defers to Justice on question of Trump election tweet 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 AlexanderChamber of Commerce endorses Ernst for reelection Pelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive Senate GOP opens door to smaller coronavirus deal as talks lag 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 MurrayPelosi huddles with chairmen on surprise billing but deal elusive House approves two child care bills aimed at pandemic GOP, Democratic relief packages B apart on vaccine funding 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 RyanDemocratic super PAC quotes Reagan in anti-Trump ad set to air on Fox News: 'Are you better off?' Trump lashes out at Reagan Foundation after fundraising request The Memo: Trump's grip on GOP loosens as polls sink 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 SandersCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Trump Spanish-language ad equates progressives, socialists Biden's tax plan may not add up MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenCuba spells trouble for Bass's VP hopes Democrats want Biden to debate Trump despite risks Overnight Defense: Embattled Pentagon policy nominee withdraws, gets appointment to deputy policy job | Marines, sailor killed in California training accident identified | Governors call for extension of funding for Guard's coronavirus response 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 AcostaAppeals court finds prosecutors' secret plea agreement with Epstein didn't break law Florida sheriff ends work release program criticized over Jeffery Epstein The Hill's Morning Report — Presented by National Association of Manufacturers — Whistleblower complaint roils Washington 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 ChaoWider impact of COVID: Some voids will be forever, some need not be OVERNIGHT ENERGY: Trump administration says proposed Pebble Mine in Alaska is not a threat to fisheries | Democrats push environmental policies in 9.5B budget package | Green groups threaten suit over push to transport liquefied natural gas by rail Environmentalists threaten suit over push to transport liquefied natural gas by rail MORE.