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 FeinsteinFederal watchdog calls on Congress, Energy Dept. to overhaul nuclear waste storage process Senate advances Biden consumer bureau pick after panel logjam Republicans caught in California's recall trap MORE (D-Calif.), the committee’s ranking member, asked whether the Constitution protects gay people’s right to marry.
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 Hirono11 senators urge House to pass .5T package before infrastructure bill Dems punch back over GOP holdup of Biden SBA nominee Senate Democrats to Garland: 'It's time to end the federal death penalty' 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“And let me make clear: 'sexual preference' is an offensive and outdated term,” she added.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.
Sen. Mazie Hirono to Amy Coney Barrett: "You use the term 'sexual preference' to describe those in the LGBTQ community. And let me make clear: 'sexual preference' is an offensive & outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice." pic.twitter.com/cUJmaKfeot— The Hill (@thehill) October 14, 2020
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.”
WATCH: Judge Amy Coney Barrett apologizes for her earlier comments referring to sexual “preference” instead of orientation: “I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community.” https://t.co/0Miu8W9p7y pic.twitter.com/60GEwPTGlH— NBC News (@NBCNews) October 13, 2020
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.