Sen. Cory Booker (D–N.J.) squared off with D.C. Circuit nominee Neomi Rao at her confirmation hearing on Tuesday, asking the potential judge if she has ever employed any LGBT law clerks. While the question raised eyebrows for multiple reasons, the most glaring is that she's never been a judge, so she's never had any law clerks—LGBT or otherwise.
But the question itself is suspect: It implies that sexuality should be part of the test for determining an applicant's suitability for hire. "Um, to be honest I don't know the sexual orientation of my staff," Rao said, when pressed by Booker. "I take people as they come, irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation."
It would certainly set an odd and dangerous precedent to grill a potential staffer on his or her sex life. And while LGBT protections vary between state and local governments, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission's federal guidelines bar workplace discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation in accordance with the Civil Rights Act of 1964. They monitor federal government employees for compliance, which would include Rao, both as the current Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs and as a potential federal judge. (Although the Justice Department challenged those rules when President Trump took office, the EEOC is still enforcing current guidelines. That could lead to a showdown at the Supreme Court.) Similarly, it's illegal to probe job applicants about their marriage and family life.
Booker also grilled Rao about whether she thought gay relationships were "sinful." She replied that her personal views on the subject would not influence her decisions. If this was supposed to be another "I am Spartacus" moment for the 2020 Democratic presidential hopeful, it fell just as flat as his last attempt.