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Supreme Court: Ketanji Brown Jackson gracefully shuts down Republican asking her to define woman

Emily Chudy March 23, 2022
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US Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee

US Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson testifies during her confirmation hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson shut down a series of loaded questions on marriage equality, trans inclusion and the definition of a woman.

Brown – US president Joe Biden’s pick for the bench – has been fielding questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee over Tuesday and Wednesday.

If the committee advances her nomination, she will be considered for Supreme Court by the full American Senate. If confirmed, Brown, 51, would replace justice Stephen Breyer when he retires in June, and would become the first Black woman to serve in the Supreme Court.

At the hearing, Texas senator John Cornyn questioned Jackson on same-sex marriage, which was legalised in the US in 2015, and whether it conflicts with religion.

“When the Supreme Court decides that something that is not even in the Constitution is a fundamental right and no state can pass any law that conflicts with the Supreme Court’s edict, particularly in an area where people have sincerely held religious beliefs, doesn’t that necessarily create a conflict between what people may believe as a matter of their religious doctrine or faith and what the federal government says is the law of the land?” Cornyn asked.

Jackson responded: “That is the nature of a right.

“That when there is a right, it means that there are limitations on regulation, even if people are regulating pursuant to their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

Along with issues of race and abortion, Jackson was also grilled on her views of gender in the hearing, with senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee asking the nominee for the “definition of a woman”.

“Do you agree with Justice Ginsburg that there are physical differences between men and women that are enduring?” The senator asked. “Can you define the word ‘woman’?”

Jackson responded: “No, I can’t… I’m not a biologist”.

Blackburn then pressed the nominee on the debate surrounding trans swimmer Lia Thomas competing in the NCAA women’s swimming championships, asking: “What message do you think this sends to girls?”

Jackson replied: “If you’re asking me about the legal issues related to it, those are topics that are being hotly discussed, as you say, and could come to the court, so I’m not able to address them.”

Biden announced that he would be nominating Jackson to the Supreme Court in February, adding that he hoped the Senate would confirm her to the role in a “timely” manner.

He said: “Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation.”

More: Ketanji Brown Jackson, supreme court, United States

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