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Cory Booker Launches Inquisition Against Trump Nominee: 'Are Gay Relationships ... Sinful?'

On Tuesday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.), a 2020 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, asked Trump judicial nominee Neomi Rao if she considered homosexual relationships to be sinful. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) immediately called Booker out on this line of questioning.

Booker seized on Rao's 2008 article opposing the Supreme Court decision Lawrence v. Texas, which decriminalized homosexual activity. He then directly asked her, "Are gay relationships in your opinion immoral?"

"I am not sure the relevance of that," Rao responded.

"Do you think gay relationships are immoral?" he continued.

"I do not," Rao said.

"Do you believe they are a sin?" Booker pressed.

"My personal views on any of these subjects are things I would put to one side," the nominee said.

"So you're not willing to say whether you believe it is sinful for a man — for two men — to be married?" the senator pressed once again.

"No," Rao responded.

"Excuse me?" Booker said.

"My response is that these personal views are ones that I would put to one side. Whatever my personal views are on the subject, I would faithfully follow the precedent of the Supreme Court," the nominee said.

Booker later launched into a speech about the struggles LGBTQ Americans have faced.

"You know LGBTQ Americans have faced a long history of discrimination, long histories of violence, intimidation, bullying. Young LGBTQ youth in America report not going to school because of fear for their own safety at rates that are unconscionable," he said. Finally, he asked a question, "Why is this administration currently trying to do so much to roll back transgender right protections and the like?

"I think civil rights and equal protection of the laws are two essential values in our system," Rao responded. "If I were to be confirmed as a judge, I would firmly uphold that."

Unsatisfied, Cory Booker asked, "Have you ever had an LGBTQ law clerk?"

Rao, who has never yet served as a judge, noted that she does not have law clerks.

"Sorry, someone working for you," the senator responded.

"To be honest I don't know the sexual orientation of my staff. I take people as they come. Irrespective of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, I treat people as individuals. Those are the values that I grew up with and those are the values I would apply if confirmed," the nominee responded.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) slammed Booker for his line of questioning, arguing that questions about what is sinful should be utterly off-limits in confirmation hearings. He cited the Constitution's ban on a religious test for public office, and declared, "I don't believe this is a theological court of inquisition."

"The Senate Judiciary Committee should not be a theater for twisting nominees' records or views, nor should it be an avenue for persecution," Cruz declared. "We have seen a growing pattern among Senate Democrats of hostility to religious faith. I was deeply troubled a few minutes ago to hear questioning of a nominee asking your personal views on what is sinful. In my view that has no business in this committee."

"We have also seen Senate Democrats attack what they've characterized as religious dogma. We have seen Senate Democrats attack nominees for their own personal views on salvation," Cruz added, noting that "Article Six of the Constitution says there should be no religious test for any public office."

Cory Booker later insisted he supports religious freedom but did not explain whether he would accept nominees who hold traditional Christian sexual morality — or other traditional religious standards.

Trump nominated Neomi Rao, an Indian-American former law professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School who currently serves as the administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, to replace Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh on the federal Court of Appeals for the Washington, D.C. Circuit. The American Bar Association (ABA), not usually well-disposed to conservatives, has rated  Rao "well qualified" to serve on the D.C. Court of Appeals.

Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.