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Cory Booker challenges Trump nominee who attacked decriminalisation of gay sex

Nick Duffy February 6, 2019
Conservative lawyer Neomi Rao was challenged by Cory Booker over her criticism of the ruling that legalised gay sex

Conservative lawyer Neomi Rao was challenged by Cory Booker over her criticism of the ruling that legalised gay sex (C-SPAN)

Cory Booker has challenged a Trump judicial nominee over her previous comments attacking the decriminalisation of gay sex.

The Trump administration has nominated conservative lawyer Neomi Rao to replace Brett Kavanaugh on the US Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, after Kavanaugh’s divisive appointment to the Supreme Court.

In her confirmation hearing on Tuesday (February 5), Democratic Senator Cory Booker challenged Rao over her record on LGBT+ issues, noting that she criticised the 2003 Supreme Court ruling Lawrence v Texas, which struck down the remaining state sodomy laws banning gay sex.

Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao opposed ruling that decriminalised gay sex

The Democratic Senator noted: “In a 2008 article you criticised a Supreme Court decision in Lawrence v Texas, which invalided the state laws that criminalised same-sex relationships.

“You said the decision ‘eschews older traditions in favour of an emerging awareness of the meaning and scope of liberty.’

“What, in your view, should the Supreme Court have been in the business of? Upholding older traditions of laws that criminalise same-sex relationships?”

Rao did not seek to distance herself from her earlier views, saying: “Those were some comments made in the course of an article about dignity and constitutional law.

“Lawrence is the precedent in the Supreme Court, which I would faithfully follow.”

Booker, who is running for president in 2020, asked: “Are gay relationships, in your opinion, immoral?”

Rao declined to answer, adding: “Senator, I’m not sure the relevance of that, to, you know…”

Pushed on the issue again, she replied: “My response is that these personal views are ones that I would put to one side.

“Whatever my personal views are on the subject, I would faithfully follow the precedent of the Supreme Court.”

US Senator Cory Booker announces his run for US president in 2020, on February 1, 2019, outside his home in Newark, New Jersey.
US Senator Cory Booker announces his run for US president in 2020, on February 1, 2019, outside his home in Newark, New Jersey. (DOMINICK REUTER/AFP/Getty)

The Democrat noted that Rao also criticised the 2013 Supreme Court decision in United States v Windsor, striking down parts of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which had banned recognition of same-sex relationships.

Trump nominee Neomi Rao dodged questions from CORY BOOKER

Booker recalled: “You said the court had found a ‘novel constitutional right’ of two people’s freedom to marry, to recognise same-sex marriage.

“You said the court’s decision amounted to a political choice, not a judicial choice. What about the Supreme Court’s decision to respect the status of same-sex marriage [did you think] was a political choice and not a judicial one?”

Rao skirted the question, responding: “The case in Windsor did not recognise same-sex marriage as a right. It only recognised the right to have your marriage recognised if the state provided such a marriage.

“Part of what I was explaining was it was an empty right.”

Booker also asked the judicial nominee whether she had ever employed an LGBT+ person, but Rao was unable to answer.

She said: “To be honest, I don’t know the sexual orientation of my staff. I take people as they come.”

Booker has been one of the few Democrats to take Trump nominees to task in the Senate over their records on LGBT+ rights during confirmation hearings.

The candidate is frequently the only lawmaker to raise the subject during confirmation battles, facing anger from Republicans in April 2018 after questioning Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his approach to global LGBT+ rights.

More: Cory Booker, decriminalisation, Gay, gay sex, LGBT, nominee, Trump

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