On Tuesday, Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ) grilled Neomi Rao, who has been nominated by Donald Trump to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, about her views on LGBTQ rights.
Booker began with some writings Rao made about Lawrence V. Texas, that the ruling “eschews older traditions in favor of an emerging awareness of the meaning of the scope of liberty.”
Booker asked, “What in your view should the Supreme Court have been in the business of upholding, ‘older traditions’ as you said, of laws that criminalize same-sex relationships?”
Rao remarked that her comments were made in the context of an article about dignity and constitutional law and she would respect precedent.
Asked Booker: “Are gay relationships, in your opinion, immoral?”
Replied Rao: “Um, senator, I’m not sure the relevance of that.”
“I think it is relevant to your opinion,” replied Booker. “Do you think African American relationships are immoral? Do you think gay relationships are immoral?”
“No. I do not,” replied Rao.
Said Booker: “You do not believe that…Do you believe they are a sin?”
“Senator, my personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side, and I would faithfully follow precedent,” replied Rao.
Asked Booker: “So you’re not willing to say here whether you believe it is sinful for two men to be married — you’re not willing to comment on that?”
“I’m sorry?” replied Rao.
“What, I didn’t hear your response,” Booker pressed.
Said Rao: “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.”
Booker went on to ask about Rao’s criticism of the Supreme Court’s decision striking down the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), calling their decision a “political choice” and not a “judicial” one.
Rao replied that the Windsor decision did not recognize same-sex marriage as a right but saw it as a “rather empty right.”\
Rao holds “a little-known but powerful office in the executive branch, the Office of Informational and Regulatory Affairs,” NBC News reports. “In that role, which is often called the ‘regulatory czar,’ she has been instrumental in Trump’s rollback of government regulations at the Education Department, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Interior Department and more.”
Booker asked Rao why this administration was trying to do so much to roll back transgender rights and protections.
Rao replied that civil rights and equal protections would be something she would “firmly uphold.”
Asked if she had ever had an LGBTQ person working for her, she said she did not know the sexual orientation of her staff.
Rao was grilled on many other subjects as well.
In college, NBC News reports, ‘she posited that sexual assaults at college parties might be avoided if women didn’t drink too much. She wrote that “a good way to avoid a potential date rape is to stay reasonably sober.”’
NBC News adds: ‘Democrats asked her if she would recuse herself on issues where she played a role in rolling back or rewriting regulations under the Trump administration, including: the clean power plant rule; the pending Title IX sexual assault regulations which would narrow the definition of sexual assault, place the burden on the victim to prove the assault in order for a school to respond and also raise the bar of proof; and the Housing and Urban Development disparate impact rule on race discrimination in housing, which is currently in litigation. In each of the instances, Rao would not commit to recusing herself, saying she would “look carefully at the statutory standards of recusal” and “follow the practices of the D.C. Circuit.”’