An editor for Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary insisted its definition for “sexual preference” was altered in a routine update and not in reaction to a senator scolding Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett for her use of the term.
The change was noticed Wednesday after Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, said the term was “offensive” and “outdated,” implying sexual orientation is not immutable.
“You use the term sexual preference to describe those in the LGBTQ community,” Hirono told Barrett. “Let me make clear: ‘sexual preference’ is an offensive, an outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activities to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not.”
FoxNews.com reported editor-at-large Peter Sokolowski claimed the change was routine.
“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. 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,” he said.
“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.”
However, even the LGBTQ community is divided over the issue.
A study posted online by the University of Utah quoted actress Cynthia Nixon, “who developed a committed relationship with a woman in her 40s after an exclusively heterosexual history.”
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She faced widespread criticism from the LGBT community for claiming to “prefer” same-sex sexuality.
“I gave a speech recently, an empowerment speech to a gay audience, and it included the line ‘I’ve been straight and I’ve been gay, and gay is better,'” she said. “And they tried to get me to change it, because they said it implies that homosexuality can be a choice. And for me, it is a choice. I understand that for many people it’s not, but for me it’s a choice, and you don’t get to define my gayness for me. … Let us stop trying to make a litmus test for who is considered gay and who is not. … Why can’t it be a choice? Why is that any less legimate?'”
The Utah study also noted a survey found that 10% of gay men, 30% of lesbians and about 60% of bisexuals reported having some degree of choice in their sexuality.
“These data are often summarized as evidence that the majority of gays and lesbians do not feel that they chose their sexual orientation, but such a summary overlooks the obvious finding that a majority of bisexuals do feel they have some choice.”
The study, called “Scrutinizing Immutability: Research on Sexual Orientation and U.S. Legal Advocacy for Sexual Minorities,” uses the term “sexual preference” and cites one study about the “development” of “sexual preference” in men and women.
The study authors wrote: “We review scientific research and legal authorities to argue that the immutability of sexual orientation should no longer be invoked as a foundation for the rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships (i.e., sexual minorities). On the basis of scientific research as well as U.S. legal rulings regarding lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) rights, we make three claims: First, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unscientific, given what we now know from longitudinal, population-based studies of naturally occurring changes in the same-sex attractions of some individuals over time. Second, arguments based on the immutability of sexual orientation are unnecessary, in light of U.S. legal decisions in which courts have used grounds other than immutability to protect the rights of sexual minorities. Third, arguments about the immutability of sexual orientation are unjust, because they imply that same-sex attractions are inferior to other-sex attractions, and because they privilege sexual minorities who experience their sexuality as fixed over those who experience their sexuality as fluid. We conclude that the legal rights of individuals with same-sex attractions and relationships should not be framed as if they depend on a certain pattern of scientific findings regarding sexual orientation.”
The study noted that in the landmark 1967 case Loving v. Virginia, the state of Virginia sought to defend the state’s law against interracial marriage on the ground that “the scientific evidence” on miscegenation was “substantially in doubt.”
The Supreme Court rejected the argument.
The court famously held: “Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry or not marry a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State.”
“But in striking down laws against interracial marriage,” the Utah study pointed out, “the Court did not suggest that the individuals should be free to marry a person of another race because they ‘couldn’t help’ their attraction to other-race individuals or because they possessed an involuntary condition making it impossible for them to fall in love with same-race individuals.”
“Rather, it was the fundamental freedom to marry a partner of one’s choosing that was constitutionally protected. We hold that the same logic applies to debates over same-sex marriage and ongoing debates about sexual-minority rights in the United States more generally. Now that the U.S. Constitution grants every individual the unfettered liberty to choose same-sex relationships, it simply does not matter why these choices are made and whether they were influenced by genes, hormones, society, or chance. To suggest that the dignity of a same-sex relationship depends on precisely what caused it is not only gratuitous but tragic.”
The Federalist noted that internet archives showed Webster’s changed its page for the definition of “preference,” adding that when used as “sexual preference” the word is “offensive.”
As recently as last month, Webster’s Dictionary included a definition of “preference” as “orientation” or “sexual preference.” TODAY they changed it and added the word “offensive.”
Insane – I just checked through Wayback Machine and it’s real.
— Steve Krakauer (@SteveKrak) October 14, 2020
The report, however, pointed out that even though Democrats claimed it is offensive, Democrats Joe Biden and Senate Judiciary Committee members Dick Durbin and Richard Blumenthal recently used the word in public settings and received no pushback.
Barrett said it was not her intent to insult anyone or use offensive language.
But Washington Free Beacon writer David Rutz noted that the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who Hirono called “our champion,” used the term “sexual preference” in 2017.
Dozens of news outlets, including CNN, also have used it commonly and it’s been used widely by Democrats, progressives and LGBT activists, The Blaze reported.
Before Tuesday, Webster’s Dictionary linked “preference” to the term “sexual preference.” Now Webster’s claims the phrase is “widely” regarded as offensive.
Webster’s now states: “The term preference as used to refer to sexual orientation is widely considered offensive in its implied suggestion that a person can choose who they are sexually or romantically attracted to.”
The Blaze noted “there is no scientific evidence proving that genetic code concretely determines the people with whom someone engages in sex.”
The Federalist said that while “this Orwellian addition shocked some on Twitter, it follows a pattern of the institutions guarding the language guidelines in society backtracking on their definitions to match what the mob is demanding.”
Watch Hirono scold Barrett:
Sen. Mazie Hirono scolds ACB for using the term “sexual preference” when answering a question about Obergefell this morning, saying that the term is “offensive and outdated.” pic.twitter.com/HcFpRQbD9X
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) October 13, 2020