The U.S. Senate Monday evening confirmed Amy Coney Barrett to the Supreme Court, giving conservatives a 6-3 majority.
Barrett, a far-right federal appeals court judge and former law professor, was Donald Trump's choice to replace liberal Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who died in September. Trump now has named three justices to the court, the others being Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.
Her confirmation came by a vote of 52-48, not unexpected given that the Senate has a Republican majority. The vote was largely along party lines; Susan Collins of Maine, who is in a close reelection race, was the only Republican to vote against Barrett's confirmation. All Democrats voted against her.
Barrett is known for her opposition to abortion rights and has been associated with a group that opposes in vitro fertilization. She has criticized the court's marriage equality decision and said sex discrimination law does not apply to anti-transgender bias. She has also objected to its decision upholding the Affordable Care Act, something the court will hear another case on in November. It will soon hear an LGBTQ+ rights case as well, on whether private organizations that hold government contracts have to obey antidiscrimination laws. She was evasive about her views on these issues during her confirmation hearings, but she has expressed them in speeches and writings.
She was named by Trump to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in 2017; the circuit covers Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin. She was previously a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. She has been a trustee of Trinity Schools, which operates three private Christian schools with anti-LGBTQ+ policies. The schools are connected with People of Praise, a right-wing Christian group of which Barrett and her husband, Jesse Barrett, are members. One of the group's beliefs is that wives should obey their husbands.
Senate Democrats tried to stop Barrett's confirmation, and activists spoke out against her, to no avail. Democrats on the Senate Judiciary Committee boycotted the vote last Thursday on whether to advance her nomination to the full Senate. They said the vote would be illegitimate if no members of the minority party were present, but the vote was taken and declared legitimate anyway.
Then Democrats spoke all night on the Senate floor as Sunday gave way to Monday to register their objections to Barrett. Among them were Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who had sought the party's presidential nomination. “It is a vote to turn back the clock on reproductive freedom, to endanger dreamers and immigrants, to let climate change rampage unchecked, to imperil efforts to address systemic racism, to place workers’ rights, voting rights, LGBTQ rights, gun violence prevention, all at risk,” Warren said.
There was criticism not only of Barrett's views but of the fact that Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell rushed her nomination through so close to the presidential election. In 2016, when a vacancy arose on the court due to Antonin Scalia's death, McConnell refused to allow a vote on President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland, even though it came eight months before the election.
Barrett was sworn in by Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas — who, along with Justice Samuel Alito, has said the marriage equality decision should be overturned — at a White House Rose Garden ceremony Monday night, with Trump in attendance. It was the first of two swearing-in ceremonies; Chief Justice John Roberts will conduct another one Tuesday.
She promised judicial independence, saying, “The oath that I have solemnly taken tonight means at its core that I will do my job without any fear or favor and that I will do so independently of both the political branches and of my own preferences. I love the Constitution and the democratic republic that it establishes and I will devote myself to preserving it.”
But that will likely not allay the fears of liberals. LGBTQ+ and a variety of other progressive groups issued statements denouncing her confirmation.
“Despite Amy Coney Barrett’s troubling anti-LGBTQ record and rhetoric, Senate Republicans rushed through the fastest Supreme Court confirmation process in modern history. This was a power grab, plain and simple, and voters must hold these Senators — and Donald Trump — accountable at the polls,” said Alphonso David, president of the Human Rights Campaign. “The process was a sham, the hearings were fast-tracked, and once again, Mitch McConnell and Donald Trump have chosen power over people. We must reject this bald power grab and elect officials — especially in the White House and the U.S. Senate — who will ensure our judicial branch lives up to its potential. Voters should hold Sens. Daines, Ernst, Gardner, Graham, McSally, Sullivan and Tillis accountable at the ballot box. Our democracy and our lives depend on it.”
“Today's action by the United States Senate is an affront to the American people and a threat to the credibility and integrity of the Supreme Court,” said National Center for Lesbian Rights Executive Director Imani Rupert-Gordon. “Rushing this nomination through in the middle of a presidential election was fundamentally wrong and a travesty of the process of appointing Supreme Court justices. 60,000,000 Americans have already voted in this election.
“This is a dark day for our justice system and American democracy. The Supreme Court of the United States, the court of last resort for justice in our country, should not be up for a power grab, but that is exactly what happened today,” said Kevin Jennings, CEO of Lambda Legal. “Amy Coney Barrett deeply alarmed us during her confirmation hearings when she refused to say whether she believed cases that are the backbone of the legal rights of LGBTQ people — such as Lambda Legal’s landmark case, Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized same-sex intimacy, and Obergefell v. Hodges, which legalized same-sex marriage — were correctly decided. We fear that all the progress we have made in recent years is now at risk. But as perverse as this nomination and forced confirmation against the will of American voters has been, we are not deterred. We have fought for the rights and dignity of LGBTQ people and everyone living with HIV for almost 50 years, and we will not stop now. Party politics may have prevailed today, but Lambda Legal will continue to fight; our communities can count on that.”
Barrett’s confirmation “is alarming for LGBTQ people and for all Americans whose fundamental rights should never be up for debate,” said GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis. “Barrett’s time at a school that discriminated against LGBTQ families and hurt LGBTQ youth is disturbing and should disqualify her from the Court. Her stated views against marriage equality, rulings against access to abortion, and her public criticism of the Affordable Care Act are out of step with fair-minded Americans and threaten the progress our country has made to become a stronger and more equitable home for all. Her record against LGBTQ families and rights has no place in American life, let alone the highest court in the land. The rush to confirm her in this unprecedented way will undermine Judge Barrett’s credibility throughout her time on the court, and will be another point of evaluation for voters witnessing this process during an out-of-control pandemic, economic crisis and as millions are casting ballots.”
“Barrett’s lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court swings it in an extreme direction that does not reflect the values of the American people,” said American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten. “Make no mistake: This Senate chose to fast-track a political process instead of passing COVID-19 relief and helping the millions of Americans struggling to find work and access care during this pandemic. This choice reflects a pattern of cruelty and neglect that should disqualify every one of them from public office. But even under normal circumstances, Barrett’s record is enormously troubling. Throughout her brief career as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals, she ruled to undermine the rights of workers and against sexual assault survivors. At her confirmation hearing, she evaded questions on the right of Americans to have access to healthcare, Medicare and Social Security; she refused to acknowledge systemic racism; and she was not clear that discriminatory barriers in voting exist. Barrett even refused to acknowledge basic facts about our democracy — that presidents should commit to a peaceful transition of power, that voter intimidation is illegal, and that presidents cannot change the date of an election. Her judicial philosophy closes every door that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ever opened.”