Massachusetts senator Ed Markey launched a scalding attack against Amy Coney Barrett’s originalism in a speech on the Senate House floor Monday (October 26), hours before Republican lawmakers confirmed her to the Supreme Court.
Barrett is a self-avowed originalist, meaning she interprets the constitution as it was written in 1787.
“That means that I interpret the constitution as a law, that I interpret its text as text and I understand it to have the meaning that it had at the time people ratified it,” she told the Senate during her confirmation hearings.
“So that meaning doesn’t change over time. And it’s not up to me to update it or infuse my own policy views into it.”
Markey was less than impressed, branding Barrett’s philosophy “racist, sexist [and] homophobic”.
“For originalists like judge Barrett, LGBTQ stands for ‘let’s go back in time, quickly’,” he said Monday.
“A time when you couldn’t marry who you love, when you couldn’t serve in the military if you were trans, a time when rights were not extended to gay, lesbian, by sexual, transgender, queer, questioning, or intersection individuals.
“Originalism is just a fancy word for discrimination. It has become a hazy smoke screen for judicial activism by so-called conservatives to achieve from the bench what they cannot accomplish through the ballot box.”
Markey said originalism is often used by conservative justices as a club to compel liberals to back down.
In turn, he said, this allows them to: “Deny rights to women, to communities of colour, and to the LGBTQ individuals, members of our society who had no rights when the constitution was ratified.”
The 74-year-old decried Barrett’s public pledge to follow in the footsteps of the late Supreme Court judge Antonin Scalia. Barretts once clerked for the justice, a giant of right-wing jurisprudence who dissented on almost all LGBT+ legislation, and considered him a mentor.
Markey described Scalia as one “of the staunchest and most arch-conservatives ever to serve on the United States Supreme Court.
“And as judge Barrett put it at her own confirmation hearing: ‘Justice Scalia’s judicial philosophy is mine, too.'”
He added: “Originalism is racist. Originalism is sexist. Originalism is homophobic.”