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Democrats hit Scalia over LGBTQ rights

Democrats ripped Eugene Scalia, President TrumpDonald TrumpGiuliani used provisional ballot to vote in 2020 election, same method he disparaged in fighting to overturn results Trump gets lowest job approval rating in final days as president Fox News' DC managing editor Bill Sammon to retire 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 MurphyOvernight Health Care: Testing capacity strained as localities struggle with vaccine staffing | Health workers refusing vaccine is growing problem | Incoming CDC director expects 500,000 COVID deaths by mid-February COVID-19 testing capacity strained as localities struggle with vaccine staffing GOP senators wrestle with purging Trump from party 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 Kaine'I saw my life flash before my eyes': An oral history of the Capitol attack 7 surprise moments from a tumultuous year in politics Robert E. Lee statue removed from US Capitol 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 AlexanderLamar AlexanderCongress addressed surprise medical bills, but the issue is not resolved Trump renominates Judy Shelton in last-ditch bid to reshape Fed Senate swears-in six new lawmakers as 117th Congress convenes 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 MurrayHawley pens op-ed to defend decision to object to electoral votes amid pushback Demolition at the Labor Department, too Hawley, Cruz face rising anger, possible censure 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 RyanRevising the pardon power — let the Speaker and Congress have voices Paul Ryan will attend Biden's inauguration COVID-19 relief bill: A promising first act for immigration reform 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 SandersBiden pushing to cancel Keystone XL pipeline as soon as he takes office: reports Biden tax-hike proposals face bumpy road ahead Senate Democrats leery of nixing filibuster MORE (I-Vt.) and Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenBiden's minimum wage push faces uphill battle with GOP What to watch for in Biden Defense pick's confirmation hearing Biden selects Gensler for SEC chair, Rohit Chopra to lead CFPB 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 AcostaOn The Money: Trump slams relief bill, calls on Congress to increase stimulus money | Biden faces new critical deadlines after relief package | Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Labor rule allows restaurants to require broader tip pooling Federal litigator files complaint alleging Labor secretary abused his authority 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 ChaoMcMaster: Trump running again would be 'terribly divisive' Azar in exit letter to Trump says Capitol riot could 'tarnish' legacy READ: Departure letter from HHS Secretary Azar to Trump MORE.