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Barrett says she didn't mean to offend LGBTQ community with term 'sexual preference'

Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett said she didn’t mean to offend the LGBTQ community with the term “sexual preference” during her second day of confirmation hearings on Tuesday.

Barrett apologized, saying she didn’t mean to “cause any offense in the LGBTQ community” with her remarks in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The nominee used the term when Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinDemocrats to boycott committee vote on Amy Coney Barrett's Supreme Court nomination The Senate should evoke RBG in its confirmation of Amy Coney Barrett The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by Goldman Sachs - Pelosi, Mnuchin push stimulus talks forward, McConnell applies brakes MORE (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, asked whether the Constitution protects gay people’s right to marry. 

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Barrett didn’t directly answer the senator’s question but said she has "never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference." 

Later Tuesday, Sen. Mazie HironoMazie Keiko HironoDurbin signals he isn't interested in chairing Judiciary Committee Democrats seem unlikely to move against Feinstein Senate Democrats call for ramped up Capitol coronavirus testing MORE (D-Hawaii) confronted the nominee about her use of the phrase “sexual preference.”

“Even though you didn’t give a direct answer, I think your response did speak volumes,” Hirono said. “Not once but twice you used the term ‘sexual preference’ to describe those in the LGBTQ community.

“And let me make clear: 'sexual preference' is an offensive and outdated term,” she added. “It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice.”

The Hawaii senator said labeling sexual orientation as “both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority’s opinion in” Obergefell v. Hodges, the 2015 decision that legalized same-sex marriage in the U.S.

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Barrett responded to Hirono’s criticism by saying she “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,” she said. “I simply meant to be referring to Obergefell's holding with regard to same-sex marriage."

The judge added her refusal to answer Feinstein’s question “was certainly not indicating disagreement with it,” noting it was “inappropriate for me to say a response.”

Barrett faced criticism on social media for using the term “sexual preference,” including from the National Women’s Law Center. 

LGBTQ activists are worried about Barrett being nominated to the Supreme Court, as a confirmation would solidify a Republican-nominated majority for years, maybe decades. The party’s current platform, written in 2016, supports legislation to protect those who believe “marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

In 2015, Barrett, who is Catholic, signed a letter to Catholic bishops that included the assertion that “marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.” But during the hearings, she said her personal and religious beliefs would not affect her decisions on the court.