Over four days of hearings, race and racist beliefs permeated speeches and hostile questioning by Republican senators, including repeatedly asking Judge Jackson about her sentencing record, exaggerating it to heighten fear about crime, and amplifying QAnon conspiracy theories.
A conservative magazine described the claims as “meritless to the point of demagoguery” and a group of retired federal judges found Jackson’s sentences “entirely consistent” with those from judges across the country. Republican senators repeatedly asked about Critical Race Theory and America’s slaveholding origins, raising issues that have enraged white conservatives at school board hearings to Judge Jackson, who if confirmed will be the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Republican senators on the committee also used the hearings to target LGBTQ rights and people.
Senator John Cornyn of Texas twice criticized the landmark 2015 Obergefell marriage equality ruling, falsely claiming it was “a dramatic departure from previous laws” that contradicted “234 years” of history. Senator John Kennedy of Louisiana questioned whether rulings like Obergefell are “justices interpreting the Constitution or are they just deciding a right when they get five votes.” As of June 2021, hundreds of thousands of same-sex couples have married since the Obergefell ruling and marriage equality is supported by a record high 70 percent of Americans, including a majority of Republicans.
Senator Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee repeatedly misgendered transgender swimmer Lia Thomas, baselessly claiming that trans women “steal opportunities.” “What message do you think this sends to girls who aspire to compete and win in sports at the highest levels?” Senator Blackburn asked. As Judge Jackson answered, Sen. Blackburn interrupted, without irony, “I think it tells our girls that their voices don’t matter.” There is no evidence of stolen opportunities, and Lia Thomas earned her eligibility to participate.
Senator Ted Cruz of Texas propped up children’s books to misquote phrases and distort their pro-equality messages, at one point asking “Do you agree with this book that is being taught to kids that babies are racist?” A common tactic of attack and mischaracterization used by book banning proponents nationwide, Senator Cruz also falsely compared the process of transitioning genders to being able to change “from Hispanic to Asian.” Transition can take years, even decades, with careful, well-established best medical care supported by physicians and psychiarists. Lawmakers in Sen. Cruz’s home state of Texas have harmfully launched baseless investigations into families who follow medical recommendations for their trans kids.
GLAAD (the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation) has tracked the anti-LGBTQ history of several committee members via the GLAAD Accountability Project, including Marsha Blackburn, Ted Cruz, Lindsey Graham, Josh Hawley, Mike Lee, and Thom Tillis. When Republicans were in the majority in the Senate, Senator Graham led the confirmation hearings for the two previous and highly-contested Supreme Court nominees, Brett Kavanaugh, and the rushed process for Amy Coney Barrett days before Election Day 2020.
GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis responded on Twitter:
“Judge Jackson revealed the intelligence, integrity, and temperament crucial to her next role as a Supreme Court justice, despite the clear lack of those traits by senators grandstanding in her historic hearings. Judge Jackson’s confirmation to the Court cannot come fast enough. The rights of LGBTQ people and all vulnerable Americans are under attack, including by senators on the committee who used the hearings to target the landmark marriage equality ruling and spread misinformation about transgender people. These are red alert warnings to every LGBTQ American and those who support us: extremists are coming for our relationships, our youth, our books and our fundamental right not to be discriminated against. These rights were made legal by a slim majority on the Supreme Court and are now supported by a vast majority of Americans, but they are not secure. Every American must now use their voice and votes to speak up for equality and for those who will fight for it. Judge Jackson brings professional and personal experience as well as long-needed representation to the Supreme Court. She will be an inspiration for millions of Americans for generations to come.”
Democratic Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey defended Judge Jackson and celebrated her historic career and nomination: “You’re more than your race and your gender. You’re a Christian, a mom, an intellect… no one’s going to steal the joy… you have earned this spot.”
When Senator Alex Padilla of California recognized Judge Jackson’s achievement as an inspiration for people of color and youth and asked her what she’d tell them, Judge Jackson relayed a story from her first semester at Harvard: “I was really questioning: Do I belong here? Can I make it in this environment? And I was walking through the yard in the evening and a Black woman I did not know was passing me on the sidewalk, and she looked at me and I guess she knew how I was feeling. And she leaned over as we crossed and said, ‘Persevere.’ I would tell them to persevere.”
Judge Jackson’s career includes experience as a federal judge and a federal public defender, and staunch protector of essential civil and human rights important to LGBTQ Americans, including defending and upholding fair sentencing practices, disability rights, workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, reproductive justice, and environmental protections.