WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump has selected Amy Coney Barrett, a federal appellate judge and a favorite among religious conservatives, as his choice to replace progressive champion Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the Supreme Court.
An inside source close to the selection process confirmed to the Washington Blade late Friday that Trump’s pick is Barrett, who currently serves on the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. The news was first reported by CNN and CBS News.
Trump is expected to announce the nomination formally on Saturday. It will be Trump’s third pick for the Supreme Court after the nominations and confirmations of Associate Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Senate Republicans have signaled they intend to hold a confirmation vote on the nominee, despite objections from the Democrats who say the chamber should hold off given Election Day is less than two months away.
LGBTQ rights groups, wary of Barrett’s writings asserting a judge’s obligation is to place faith above the law, were quick to denounce the choice.
Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said in a statement the nomination is a slap in the face to Ginsburg’s legacy.
“If she is nominated and confirmed, Coney Barrett would work to dismantle all that Ruth Bader Ginsburg fought for during her extraordinary career,” David said. “An appointment of this magnitude must be made by the president inaugurated in January. The Human Rights Campaign fervently opposes Coney Barrett’s nomination, and this sham process.”
In contrast to Ginsburg, who joined in each of the major decisions favoring LGBTQ rights from the Supreme Court, Barrett has expressed a judicial philosophy suggesting she may undermine LGBTQ rights or rule on the side of religious freedom when it comes into conflict with LGBTQ non-discrimination policies.
Most tellingly, Barrett in 2015 co-signed a letter with other Catholic women a letter to bishops affirming marriage is between and a woman and the sexual difference between men and women was significant.
“We give witness that the Church’s teachings — on the dignity of the human person and the value of human life from conception to natural death; on the meaning of human sexuality, the significance of sexual difference and the complementarity of men and women; on openness to life and the gift of motherhood; and on marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman — provide a sure guide to the Christian life, promote women’s flourishing, and serve to protect the poor and most vulnerable among us,” the letter says.
Questioned about signing the letter during her Senate confirmation hearing in 2017, Barrett denied it would have any bearing on her legal interpretation of the Constitution, should the issue of same-sex marriage come back to the Supreme Court.
“In the context of same-sex marriages and in any context, my religious beliefs really would not bear on that at all,” Barrett said. “I think one of the great traditions in this country is that judges participate in the law, participate in the decision of cases, and rule even when they disagree with the outcome.’”
In 2016, when addressing the Jacksonville University Policy Institute in a speech hailing the originalist perspective of the late Associate Justice Antonin Scalia, Barrett spoke favorably about the dissenters in the Obergefell v. Hodges case that guaranteed same-sex couples across the country the right to marry, including Chief Justice John Roberts.
Refuting the notion of the decision was based on which justices of the Supreme Court supported same-sex marriage and which didn’t. Barrett said the majority found it was a “right guaranteed by the Constitution, so therefore states were not free — kind of in that Odysseus way of tying themselves to the mast — that states weren’t free to say that marriage had to be between a man and a woman.”
“The dissenters weren’t taking a view — in fact, Chief Justice John Robert’s dissent was very explicit about that,” Barrett said.
“He said if you want same-sex marriage you have every right to lobby in state legislatures and make that happen, but the dissent’s view is that it wasn’t for the court to decide, that the Constitution didn’t speak to the question, and so that it was a change that should occur in the legislative process. And indeed, many states were already moving in that direction and making legislative changes.”
Additionally, Barrett confirmed in 2017 she took a speaking fee from Alliance Defending Freedom, a legal group that has argued against LGBTQ rights and brought the Masterpiece Cakeshop case before the Supreme Court.
Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal, said in a statement that if Barrett is confirmed it will “unleash a Supreme Court majority that is hostile to all of our basic civil rights, and the impact will be felt for decades.”
“Judge Barrett’s personal belief that marriage is between a man and a woman, coupled with her unwillingness to affirm that the Supreme Court’s decision making marriage equality the law of the land is settled law, should sound the alarm for anyone who cares about LGBTQ people and their families,” Jennings said. “However, her cramped so-called ‘originalist’ view of the Constitution threatens the civil rights of not just LGBTQ people but a host of others, including women and people of color, who have relied on the courts to make progress in the fight for equality and justice.”
After hearing of the possibility of Barrett’s nomination, Rick Zbur the Executive Director of Equality California told the Los Angeles Blade in an emailed statement Friday evening;
“In over three decades as a lawyer and LGBTQ+ civil rights advocate, I’ve never been this fearful for our courts, our civil rights and our democracy,” Zbur noted.
“Trump’s decision to fill a vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court just weeks before the presidential election is a heinous power grab in and of itself, but to nominate an anti-LGBTQ+, anti-choice extremist like Amy Coney Barrett is a broadside attack on decades of progress and on Justice Ginsburg’s legacy. Coney Barrett on the bench of the nation’s highest court would be a nightmare for LGBTQ+ civil rights for decades to come and her opposition to Roe v. Wade, voting rights, the ACA and other progressive decisions are simply disqualifying.
“The Supreme Court belongs to America — to all of us — not just one party or one politician. We urge the U.S. Senate to honor Justice Ginsburg’s final wish and block any nomination until after the inauguration,” Zbur added.