LGBTQ advocates, including Catholics, are raising concerns about Amy Coney Barrett, the Trump administration’s nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, over the nominee’s apparent indifference towards or even opposition to LGBTQ equality.
The U.S. Senate concludes hearings over Barrett’s nomination today, and her appointment is all but a given when a vote comes later this month. What might a sixth Catholic on the Court lead to?
DignityUSA suggested in a statement that Barrett’s confirmation would threaten the rights and, indeed, the lives of LGBTQ people. Executive Director Marianne Duddy-Burke wrote forcefully:
“A nominee for such a critical position [a justice on the U.S. Supreme Court] must be considered based on their commitment to equality under the law for all individuals.
“We do not see a commitment to equality from Judge Amy Coney Barrett. She has argued marriage equality should be a state by state rather than federal decision and signed a 2015 letter to Catholic bishops in advance of Vatican Synod on the Family declaring support for the theory of gender complementarity and for definition of ‘marriage and family founded on the indissoluble commitment of a man and a woman.’ She has made statements indicating she does not believe Title IX protections against sex discrimination should apply to transgender people, referred to transgender women as ‘physiological males who identify as females,’ and repeated unproven concerns they present a threat to female children. She also refused to re-hear an employment case centered on racial discrimination, raising questions about her approach to civil rights.”
Duddy-Burke also highlighted the problems with Barrett being referred to as a “devout Catholic” as if that explained her beliefs and perspectives. DignityUSA’s leader elaborated, “Devout Catholics, Catholics deeply committed to our faith, hold a wide range of positions and beliefs on social issues and policies that are likely to come before the Supreme Court.” (In a related note, Religion News Service recently wrote about the frustrations of progressive Catholics who feel left out of the conversation around faith issues and this nomination.)
Duddy-Burke pointed out that Barrett’s views on many issues do not reflect the values of “many, if not most Catholics.”
Katelyn Ringrose, a former student of Barrett’s at the University of Notre Dame’s Law School, where the nominee was previously a professor prior to her appointment as a federal appeals court judge by Donald Trump in 2017, wrote critically in truthout. Ringrose, who was the LGBT Law Forum president when at Notre Dame, exposed Barrett’s LGBTQ-negative record related to the Law School.
Ringrose noted that Barrett never attended LGBT Law Forum events, as other professors did, preferring instead to visit the campus’ Federalist Society chapter and events by the Alliance Defending Freedom which works to stop LGBTQ equality. She signed onto a letter opposing marriage equality, and remained silent when homophobic incidents occurred on campus. Rather than voicing support for LGBTQ students, the “common theme” among this evidence is Barrett’s “unwillingness to support her students as an ally, and in many cases, her vocal anti-LGBTQ sentiments,” according to Ringrose.
Expanding outward, Xtra compiled relevant details about Barrett when it comes to LGBTQ issues, while noting that her judicial record is exceedingly short at just three years old. But one relationship could be telling:
“Barrett was a paid speaker at the Blackstone Legal Fellowship [a project of the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF] five different times between 2011 and 2017, but has claimed she was unaware that the fellowship was run by ADF while she was speaking there. Barrett has also pleaded ignorance to the ADF’s policy positions, including their fervent opposition of same-sex marriage.
“Suggested reading lists for the fellowship have previously included texts such as ‘The Homosexual Agenda,’ which argues that gay relationships lead to despair, disease and early death, as well as a text that refers to homosexuality as a ‘dark pagan practice.’ A text that remains on the reading list claims that homosexuals remaining in the closet ‘is a sign of a sane society.'”
The most immediate impact Barrett might have, if seated by November 4th of this year, would be hearing arguments for and then ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. This case concerns whether a government-funded, Catholic social service agency has a religious liberty exemption to reject LGBTQ people as adoptive and foster parents. Bondings 2.0 will have further reporting on the case in the coming weeks.
While there are no definitive answers on how Amy Coney Barrett will rule if her appointment to the Supreme Court proceeds, LGBTQ advocates rightly raise questions about how her previously-stated values and actions could potentially harm LGBTQ equality.
Want to learn more about how the U.S. Supreme Court has already impacted church workers’ rights this year, and what is coming up in regard to questions of non-discrimination and religious liberty in the current term? Register for New Ways Ministry’s upcoming discussion with Dr. Leslie Griffin, a constitutional law professor and former theology faculty member at the University of Notre Dame, on November 1, 2020 at 4:00 – 5:00 pm Eastern U.S. Time. For more information or to register, click here.
—Robert Shine, New Ways Ministry, October 14, 2020