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Law & the Courts

Booker Asks Judicial Nominee if She Believes ‘Gay Relationships’ Are a ‘Sin’

Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) speaks to the media outside his home after announcing he will run for president in Newark, N.J., February 1, 2019. (Andrew Kelly/REUTERS)

Senator Cory Booker (D., N.J.) asked D.C. Circuit Court nominee Neomi Rao whether she believed homosexual relationships are sinful during her confirmation hearing on Tuesday.

Citing an article Rao wrote years earlier analyzing Lawrence v. Texas, a Supreme Court decision that struck down state laws criminalizing sodomy, Booker launched into a line of questioning that pertained to the nominee’s personal beliefs regarding the morality of homosexual relationships.

“Are gay relationships in your opinion immoral?” Booker asked.

“Um, senator, I’m not sure the relevance of that to—” Rao began.

“I think it’s relevant to your opinion if you think African-American relationships are immoral, do you think gay relationships are immoral?” Booker interjected.

“I do not,” she responded.

“Do you believe they are a sin?” Booker continued.

“Senator, my personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side,” she replied.

“So you’re not saying here whether you believe it is sinful for two men to be married. You’re not willing to comment on that?” Booker asked.

“Senator, no,” she said.

“Excuse me?” Booker said. “I didn’t hear your response.”

“My answer is that these personal views are ones that I would put to one side, whatever my personal views are on this subject, I would faithfully follow the precedents of the Supreme Court,” she replied.

“Have you ever had an LGBTQ law clerk?” Booker then asked.

“I have not been a judge so I don’t have any law clerks,” Rao responded.

“I’m sorry, someone working for you?” Booker continued.

“Um, to be honest I don’t know the sexual orientation of my staff,” she said. “I take people as they come, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation.”

During Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s confirmation hearing, Booker similarly criticized the nominee for his previous opposition to the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling, which legalized gay marriage nationwide.

“Mike Pompeo pledged to me over and over again that he would treat all those under his leadership with respect and treat them equally,” Booker said. “But I am not sure how you truly lead others — not to mention ‘love they [sic] neighbor’ — and still view a fundamental and innate part of who they are as a perversion.”

A number of Trump administration nominees have been subjected to hostile questioning pertaining to their respective religious affiliations and, in the case of District Court nominee Brian Buescher, Democratic senators Mazie Hirono of Hawaii and Kamala Harris of California were censured for openly criticizing the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization Buescher is affiliated with.

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