SUPREME Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett used the phrase "sexual preference" when grilled about gay marriage during the Senate hearings.
THE expression has now been redefined as an offensive term by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
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Who is Amy Coney Barrett?
Amy Coney Barrett, 48, was born in 1972 and raised in New Orleans.
She is the eldest child of seven siblings. Her father worked as an attorney for Shell Oil Company.
She earned her undergraduate degree in English literature in 1994 at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn.
She then graduated from Notre Dame University Law School, and clerked for conservative icon Justice Antonin Scalia.
She taught at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana for 15 years, before being appointed to her current role as a circuit judge on the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017.
Barrett is married to former federal prosecutor Jesse M. Barrett who currently serves as a partner at law firm SouthBank Legal in South Bend, Indiana.
The couple live in South Bend with their seven children ranging in age from eight to 19.
Two were adopted from Haiti and one child has Down Syndrome and special needs.
She is also reportedly a member of People of Praise: a small, tightly knit Christian group which was founded in 1971 in South Bend, Indiana.
What has Barrett said about gay marriage and the LGBTQ community?
Barrett was asked by Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California about whether the Constitution allows for gay people to get married.
She said she has "never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would not ever discriminate on the basis of sexual preference."
"Like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent," she added, according to NBC News.
Senator Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, also a Democrat, criticized Barrett for using the the phrase "sexual preference."
"It's used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not," the senator said.
What did Merriam-Webster say about ‘sexual preference’?
THE term "sexual preference" has been redefined as an offensive term by the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Its fifth definition of "preference" cites "orientation" with the example being "sexual preference" – but this was changed to say its use was "offensive" on October 14.
Merriam-Webster's Editor Peter Sokolowski told Fox News it usually updates words at different points in the year – but if certain words are "getting extra attention" they will see to it immediately.
"Our scheduled updates, which add new words and also add new definitions, usage guidance, and example sentences to existing dictionary entries, take place several times per year," said Sokolowski.
"From time to time, we release one or some of these scheduled changes early when a word or set of words is getting extra attention, and it would seem timely to share that update."
"In this case, we released the update for sexual preference when we noticed that the entries for preference and sexual preference were being consulted in connection with the SCOTUS hearings."
"A revision made in response to an entry's increased attention differs only in celerity – as always, all revisions reflect evidence of use."
"Sexual orientation is a key part of a person's identity. That sexual orientation is both a normal expression of human sexuality and immutable was a key part of the majority's opinion in Obergefell."
Same-sex marriage became legal as a result of the Obergefell v. Hodges Supreme Court case in 2015.
Barrett declined to say whether she agreed with Obergefell v. Hodges.
Hirono said that Barrett's use of the term "spoke volumes" and insisted "the LGBQT community should be rightly concerned" about her joining the Supreme Court given her use of the phrase.
"So even though you didn't give a direct answer I think your response did speak volumes," she said.
"Not once but twice you used the term sexual preference to describe those in the LGBTQ community and – let me make clear – sexual preference is an offensive and outdated term."
When was Barrett nominated for the Supreme Court?
Barrett was nominated by President Donald Trump on Saturday, September 26 following the death of Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
With the passing of Ginsburg, questions were raised as to who would fill the "notorious" justice's shoes.
Trump said at a rally in North Carolina he would choose a female as his pick for the next Supreme Court justice and described Barrett as "very highly respected."
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