Amy Coney Barrett apologizes for use of phrase ‘sexual preference’

During the second day of her confirmation hearings for the Supreme Court, Judge Amy Coney Barrett drew criticism Tuesday for her use of the phrase “sexual preference” while facing questions from the Senate Judiciary Committee.

In response to a question from Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., the ranking member of the committee, about whether the Constitution affords gay people the right to marry, Barrett, who dodged the question, said she has “never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference.”

“Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent,” she said.

Several hours later, Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, chastised Barrett for using the term, calling it “offensive and outdated.”

“It’s used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not. Sexual orientation is a key part of a person’s identity,” Hirono said. “That sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority’s opinion in Obergefell.”

Obergefell v. Hodges is the 2015 landmark Supreme Court decision that made same-sex marriage legal across the U.S.

Barrett clarified her use of the phrase “sexual preference” and apologized to those who interpreted to be offensive.

“I certainly didn’t mean and would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LGBTQ community,” she said.

Barrett also clarified that her refusal to share her views about the Obergefell decision was “certainly not indicating disagreement with it.”

Following criticism of Barrett for using the term “sexual preference,” video surfaced of Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden using the same phrase in May.

The Biden campaign did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the video.

On Wednesday, Merriam-Webster declared “sexual preference” an “offensive” term in its online dictionary.

“The term sexual preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to,” the entry states.

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Image: Brooke SopelsaBrooke Sopelsa

Brooke Sopelsa is the editorial director of NBC Out, NBC News’ LGBTQ digital destination. 

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