During her confirmation hearings on Capitol Hill earlier this week, US Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett sparked considerable outrage when she used the widely denounced term “sexual preference” to discuss LGBTQI rights. .
- Barrett referenced this phrase when asked about the landmark Supreme Court ruling in Obergfell v. Hodges (2015), who overturned the ban on same-sex marriages in all 50 US states.
- Hawaii Democratic Senator Mazie Hirono condemned his choice of words, calling the term “offensive” and “outdated”.
- Meanwhile, Barrett’s comments received widespread backlash on social media, with various members of the LGBTQI community and advocacy groups criticizing her for her callousness.
- In fact, renowned dictionary and reference book publisher Merriam Webster even updated its online definition of the term “sexual preference” after the incident, to indicate its offensive nature.
What was Amy Coney Barrett’s controversial statement?
- On the second day of the Supreme Court election confirmation hearings of President Donald Trump, Amy Coney Barrett, Senator Dianne Feinstein asked if the candidate shared the views of her mentor, Justice Antonin Scalia on interpersonal marriage. of the same sex. Judge Scalia was known to consistently speak out against gay rights, Feinstein noted.
- Feinstein asked if Barrett would also be “a coherent vote to roll back hard-fought freedoms and protections for the LGBT community.” To this, Barrett replied that she “had no agenda,” a phrase Scalia himself used in his own confirmation hearing.
“I want to make it clear that I have never discriminated based on sexual preference and that I would not discriminate based on sexual preference.”Barret
- Barret’s appointment to the Supreme Court has angered LGBTQI groups and advocates across the country as many fear that her personal ultra-conservative views and legal approach threaten the rights of sexual minorities.
- During the hearing, Barrett declined to tell senators whether he would vote to overturn rulings that provide legal protection for same-sex marriage.
But why is the use of the term “sexual preference” controversial ?
- Members and advocates of the LGBTQI community often find the term “sexual preference” offensive because it implies that sexuality is a choice.
- The phrase suggests that who a person chooses as a romantic or sexual partner is simply based on their personal preferences, which have the potential to change.
- In an article published in 1991, the American Psychological Association (APA) wrote: “The word preference suggests a degree of voluntary choice that is not necessarily informed by lesbians and gay men and that has not been proven in psychological research.”
- “The term ‘sexual preference’ is generally used to suggest that being a lesbian, gay or bisexual is an option and therefore can and should be ‘cured,'” the prominent American LGBTQI alliance GLAAD notes in a guide. reference for the media.
- The idea that sexual minorities can be “cured,” implying that their sexuality is a disease, has long been promoted by right-wing Christian groups in the United States.
- Today, the term “sexual preference” has largely been replaced by “sexual orientation” because it clears up ambiguity and recognizes that sexuality is a key part of a person’s identity.
What was the response to the statement?
- Sen. Mazie Hirono later criticized the candidate for using the “offensive and outdated term.” “It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. This is not the case, ”said the senator.
- She went on to say that if Barrett truly believed that “sexual orientation is just a preference,” then the LGBTQ community should be “rightly concerned” about whether the judge will uphold their constitutional right to marry if it remains. .
- Apologizing for her comments, Barrett said she had no intention of “harming the LGBTQ community.” “So if I did, I’m really sorry,” he said. “I just wanted to talk about Obergefell’s mandate for same-sex marriage.”
- Barrett’s comments also sparked a widespread reaction on social media. Sharing a video of the incident on Twitter, the Washington DC-based National Center for Women’s Rights wrote: “Not a ‘preference,’ Judge Barrett.
- GLAAD also condemned his comments. “The correct term is sexual orientation. “Sexual preference” is a term anti-LGBTQ activists often use to indicate that sexual orientation is a choice, ”the organization tweeted.
- Soon after, Merriam Webster updated her online definition of the term “sexual preference” to indicate its offensive nature.
- “The term sexual preference, as used to refer to sexual orientation, is considered offensive in its implicit suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to,” it now reads.
- The dictionary editor has since confirmed that the entry was in fact updated due to Barrett’s controversial comments during the Supreme Court confirmation hearing.