If you’re unfamiliar with Amy Coney Barrett, I recommend reading Lily O’s talon article that offers a better overview of her biography.
By now, it is common knowledge that Amy Barrett was nominated, processed, and confirmed in an extremely timely manner, despite concerns over the passing of Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the election. Democrats insisted that the replacement of Ginsburg should wait until after the election concluded, considering it was merely weeks away. Though as we know, Trump insisted. Interestingly enough, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold a hearing or a vote for Supreme Court nominee Merrick Garland when he was nominated under the Obama administration in 2016 when the presidential election was still more than seven months away. Regardless of this, Amy Barrett has been officially confirmed as a justice to the Supreme Court of the United States.
During the televised questioning of her personal beliefs and convictions, Barrett chose not to disclose her opinion on many of the controversial subjects in question, such as abortions, guns, and gay marriage. She also withheld her thoughts on the Affordable Care Act produced by the Obama administration, despite having been an outspoken critic of its existence. Let us take a look at some notable moments in her personal and professional lives over the years.
While Barrett personally identifies with the Catholic denomination, she served as an active member of the People of Praise Christian Community, up until her appointment to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals when her image began to dissipate from the organization’s public forums. The People of Praise is a tight-knit religious group that practices a strict view of human sexuality and embraces traditional gender roles, also rejecting openly gay men and women. Former members that have spoken up about their experiences, in addition to group documents, show that People of Praise is led by men who guide community members on how to form families that align with the organizations’ interpretation of the bible, particularly in regards to individual gender norms. This traditional family structure certainly suits plenty of individuals perfectly well, but it does effectively contradict the years of work it took to secure the opportunity for women to evade this exact scenario. Members of People of Praise display an active embodiment of the group’s teachings and ideals, so this influenced should be acknowledged when considering how Barrett might rule in cases having to do with the family unit or gender and sexuality rights.
“Women were homemakers; they were there to support their husbands,” a former member said in an interview. “My dad was the head of the household and the decision-maker.”
Her religious affiliation and history are particularly relevant when examining her relationship with the law. Despite adamant assertions that her religious convictions do not impair her ability to make decisions based on the Constitution, Barrett proclaimed that “A legal career is but a means to an end … and that end is building the Kingdom of God,” in a 2006 commencement speech to graduates of Notre Dame Law School. For obvious reasons, this proclamation calls into question Barretts ability to separate her religious agenda from her career. With that said, “Barrett has explained her judicial philosophy as an originalist—interpreting the U.S. Constitution according to what the words meant to the individuals that wrote it—and textualist—interpreting a law based on the words on the page, not what Congress may have intended to do when the law was passed” (Ballotpedia).
This political philosophy becomes flawed when diving into certain controversial issues. For example, Roe v. Wade set the precedent for a woman’s right to an abortion because the court concluded that the Constitution guarantees abortion access, despite not being tangibly written into the Constitution. The same goes for gay marriage. When Obergefell v. Hodges affirmed that same-sex couples have the Constitutional right to marry, it actively protected one of the hundreds of rights and/or practices not explicitly outlined in the U.S. Constitution. Barrett insists that she has no underlying agenda to overturn the important precedents set by Roe and Obergefell, but that is not enough to reassure members of the LGBTQ community that fear Barrett’s influence on the already conservative majority court will begin to undo the progress that has just begun being made. After all, Donald Trump did promise voters that he would appoint justices that would be ready to overturn Roe v. Wade. Barrett asserts, “I tend to agree with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it”. Interesting Amy.
On another note, Barrett has also outwardly expressed her grievances towards a little something called the Miranda doctrine. The Miranda Rights were created to help protect one’s 5th Amendment right against compelled self-incrimination and ones 6th Amendment right to counsel and can result in the exclusion of evidence obtained in the absence of a warning of the right to remain silent.
Personally, the moment in Barrett’s career that stands out the most to me takes place in 2019 when Amy Coney Barrett wrote an influential appellate ruling that allowed a Purdue University student accused of sexual assault to challenge the school’s handing of his case. A three-judge panel, including Barrett, with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 7th Circuit, ruled that Purdue might have been biased in its approach to the case, after Purdue found John Doe guilty of sexual misconduct, causing him to lose his ROTC scholarship. John proceeded with a lawsuit against Purdue, which was originally dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in Indiana’s Northern District. “It is plausible,” Barrett wrote, that Purdue investigation panel “chose to believe Jane because she is a woman and to disbelieve John because he is a man.” John Doe argued that Purdue officials might have come down on him to show they were heeding instructions from the former Obama administration to enact a “more rigorous approach to campus sexual misconduct.” He argued that Purdue had a financial incentive to protect its federal funds and “tilted the process against men accused of sexual assault so it could elevate the number of punishments imposed.”
Today, John Doe’s case is pending in district court, and he still needs to prove that he was discriminated against based on his sex to win his Title IX claim before a jury.