Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a 2020 presidential hopeful, set his sights on the personal religious beliefs of President Donald Trump’s judicial nominee to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit.
Booker’s line of questioning for Neomi Rao started Tuesday when he asked Trump’s nominee if she has had any law clerks who identify themselves as part of the LGBTQ community.
The Democrat quickly ran into a problem, though: Rao has never been a judge, so she’s never had any law clerks.
“Have you ever had any LGBTQ law clerks?” Booker asked after offering up a lengthy soliloquy about LGBTQ rights.
In response, Rao said, “Senator, I’ve yet to be a judge. I don’t have law clerks.”
Booker quickly adjusted his question, asking instead if Rao had ever employed LGBTQ people in any capacity. The nominee replied, “To be honest I don’t know the sexual orientation of my staff. I take people as they come, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation.”
“I treat people as individuals,” she added.
Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) embarrasses himself while questioning D.C. Circuit
Circuit Court of Appeals nominee Neomi Rao during her confirmation hearing
Booker: "Have you ever had any LGBTQ law clerks?"
Rao: "Senator, I've yet to be a judge. I don't have law clerks." pic.twitter.com/x48SZ3W6ig
— Ryan Saavedra (@RealSaavedra) February 5, 2019
Why is Booker asking about this?
The New Jersey lawmaker’s line of questioning came as a result of Rao’s past comments on same-sex relationships, according to Fox News.
In 2008, she penned an article critical of the Supreme Court’s 2003 decision in Lawrence v. Texas, which made same-sex sexual activity legal in every U.S. state and territory.
Rao also wrote about homosexuality in a 1994 article for the Yale Herald:
Because homosexuality, unlike gender and race, concerns a socially unacceptable activity, many gays have responded to the demands of normalcy in radical ways… Homosexual activism in its most visible form engages mainstream society in a total cultural challenge. The ‘promotion of queer expression’ comes in the form of explicitly sexual printed material, as well as national rallies and marches.
As a result of these writings, Booker pressed Rao to tell him whether she sees homosexuality as “immoral.”
“I am not sure the relevance of that,” Rao replied.
Again, Booker pressed, “Do you think gay relationships are immoral?”
“I do not,” the nominee said.
“Do you believe they are a sin?” Booker continued.
Unacceptable. ? Sign the petition and tell the Senate to #StopRao's confirmation to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals: https://t.co/SmL8JS7by9 #NeomiRao #CoryBooker #CourtsMatter pic.twitter.com/0GSxTNgFSi
— CREDO Mobile (@CREDOMobile) February 5, 2019
Rao told Booker, “You know, senator, my personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side and faithfully follow the precedents of the Supreme Court.”
The senator continued still to press Rao, comparing the LGBTQ movement to the Civil Rights movement. But Rao stood her ground, telling Booker she was unwilling to tell him whether she believes it’s “sinful” for two men to be married.
What was the response?
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed Booker and his fellow Democrats for displaying “hostility to religious faith” during Tuesday’s hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
“I was deeply troubled a few minutes ago to hear questioning of a nominee asking your personal views of what is ‘sinful.’ In my view, that has no business in this committee,” Cruz said. “[I] don’t believe this is a theological court of inquisition. I think the proper avenue for investigation of this committee is a nominee’s record.”
Referencing Sen. Dianne Feinstein’s (D-Calif.) similar questioning of then-judicial nominee Amy Coney Barrett, Cruz reminded lawmakers the U.S. Constitution prohibits a religious test of any nominee for public office.