Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett came under fire from Sen. Mazie Hirono (D., Hawaii) Tuesday for using the term "sexual preference," but presidential candidate Joe Biden, late Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and other prominent liberals have said it during their careers.
"I'm going to need you to help this time rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class, but this time bring everybody along regardless of color, sexual preference, their backgrounds," Biden said during a virtual roundtable on May 7.
Biden also used the term in 2010 when discussing the Senate repeal of the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy in the military and during his failed 2008 presidential campaign.
"We will not be squandering the abilities of combat soldiers, as well as interpreters who happen to have a different sexual preference, who happen to be gay or happen to be lesbian," Biden said, according to a Defense Department document.
Ginsburg, the liberal favorite whose seat Barrett would fill if confirmed, used the term during an interview in 2017.
"Our society has come to respect people, whatever their sexual preference," Ginsburg said.
Hirono lauded Ginsburg as a liberal icon and "our champion" during her Judiciary Committee remarks on Monday.
Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D., Conn.) also used the term in a 2012 floor speech, as did Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.) in 2010. Both are current members of the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Hirono said Tuesday the phrase is an "outdated and offensive term," echoing liberal commentators on Twitter, and she accused Barrett of deliberately saying it.
"Sexual preference … is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not," she said. "Sexual orientation is a key part of a person's identity. If it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference, as you noted, then the LGTBQ should be rightly concerned whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry."
Barrett apologized, saying she "did not mean to imply that it was not an immutable characteristic or that it’s solely a matter of preference."