Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) questioned Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao Tuesday about whether she thought gay marriage was “immoral” and whether she had LGBTQ people on her staff. Rao is Trump’s nominee for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit and the current administrator of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs.
Booker asked Rao about a 2008 article in which she wrote of the 2008 Supreme Court case Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized same-sex relationships, that the decision “eschews old traditions in favor of an emerging awareness of the meaning and the scope of liberty.”
Dissatisfied by her response that she would uphold Supreme Court precedent in such matters, Booker asked, “are gay relationships in your opinion immoral?”
After initially objecting that such a question was not relevant, she finally replied that “no” she did not consider such relationships immoral.
This response did not satisfy Booker who asked, ”Do you believe they’re a sin?”
“My personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side and I would faithfully follow precedent,” she replied.
“So you’re not willing to state here whether it’s sinful for two men to be married?” he pressed. “You’re not willing to comment on that?”
“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 precedents of the Supreme Court,” she replied again.
.@CoryBooker: Are gay relationships in your view immoral?— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) February 5, 2019
RAO: ... Senator, I'm not sure the relevance of that...
BOOKER: Do you believe they are a sin?
RAO: Senator, my personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put on one side. pic.twitter.com/4geaoaAww3
Booker then asked Rao if she’d ever had an LGBTQ law clerk, despite the fact that she's never been a judge.
“I’ve not been a judge so I don’t have any law clerks,” she replied.
He followed up asking if she’d ever had someone working for her that fit that description.
“To be honest I don’t know the sexual orientation of my staff,” she replied. “I take people as they come, you know, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I treat people as individuals. Those are the values that I grew up with and those are the values I would apply if confirmed.”
Cory Booker: "Have you ever had an LGBTQ law clerk?"— Howard Mortman (@HowardMortman) February 5, 2019
Neomi Rao: "I've not been a judge, so I don't have any law clerks."
Booker: "I'm sorry, someone working for you"
Rao: "To be honest I don't know the sexual orientation of my staff. I take people as they come irrespective of..." pic.twitter.com/p7sn4ysNqy
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) strongly objected to Booker’s line of questioning, saying he should be asking about her record not her "religious views." Booker responded to Cruz by saying he is a firm believer in religious freedom but that "religion was used as a ruse to discriminate against African Americans," and no one should face discrimination over their sexual orientation.
This is not the first time Booker, a 2020 Democratic presidential contender, has asked a Trump nominee their religious views on same-sex relationships. In April 2018, Booker asked then-Secretary of State nominee Mike Pompeo if he thought “gay sex is a perversion.” Booker also asked then-Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh if he'd ever "conducted" a gay wedding. Kavanaugh would not give his personal views on the matter, citing precedent.