The Merriam-Webster dictionary altered their definition of the term “preference” on Tuesday following a firestorm of criticism over Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s use of the term “sexual preference”.

In Merriam-Webster’s previous definition, the fifth description of “preference” was listed as: “ORIENTATION sense 2b // sexual preference”. Now, immediately on the heels of liberal attacks on Amy Coney Barrett’s use of the phrase “sexual preference”, that fifth description of “preference” now reads: “offensive, see usage paragraph below: ORIENTATION sense 2b // sexual preference”.

Steve Krakauer of The Megyn Kelly Show shared the images of the original definition and the new definition on Twitter:

Many commenters have pointed out that the changing of definitions is a dictionary’s job – indeed, language evolves with time and culture. If a term morphs into something offensive through its use in society, a dictionary ought to reflect that.

When Merriam-Webster was asked to change their definition of the word “racism” earlier this year to include more systemic definitions, editor Alex Chambers said that “our focus will always be on faithfully reflecting the real-world usage of a word, not on promoting any particular viewpoint,” and announced that in that vein, the dictionary would be revising the definition since “omitting any mention of the systemic aspects of racism promotes a certain viewpoint in itself.”

But many others have called this most recent change in definition hypocritical – that it would be changed on the heels of the term being used by a conservative, but that the same term in the mouths of liberals would be ignored.

Just this past May, for instance, Joe Biden used the term “sexual preference” during a virtual campaign meeting:

“I’m going to need you if we win,” Biden told the meeting attendees. “I’m going to need you to help this time rebuild the backbone of this country, the middle class, but this time bring everybody along regardless of color, sexual preference, their backgrounds, whether they have any … Just bring everybody along. We can do this. We can, and I think the country’s ready.” (emphasis mine)

Krakauer followed up his Merriam-Webster tweet with posts about the use of “sexual preference” from the left, noting Obama’s Defense Secretary’s use of the term in 2018, and CNN’s use of the term in a 2016 article on gender fluidity.

Democrat criticism of Barrett has been focused around how she would handle cases like Obergefell v. Hodges, Roe v. Wade, and whether or not she would strike down the Affordable Care Act, with assumptions that she would fall in lock-step with the originalist, conservative interpretations of Justice Scalia.

Senator Feinstein asked during yesterday’s confirmation hearings if Barrett agrees with the late Scalia’s opinion that there is no fundamental right to homosexual marriage in the U.S. Constitution.

Barrett refused to give a direct answer, quoting Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s “no hints, no previews, no forecasts.”

Feinstein objected to her refusal, calling it “a fundamental point” for the LGBTQ community, expressing fear that Barrett would be a consistent vote for the repealing of laws currently protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community.

In the comments that have now been the object of attack from the left, Barrett responded:

“Senator, I have no agenda and I do want to be clear that I have never discriminated on the basis of sexual preference and would never discriminate on the basis of sexual preference. You know, like racism, I think discrimination is abhorrent. On the questions of law, however, I just – because I’m a sitting judge and because you can’t answer questions without going through the judicial process – can’t give answers to those very specific questions.”

Barrett’s use of the term “sexual preference” was questioned by both Senators Mazie Hirono (D – HI) and Cory Booker (D – NJ).

“Not once, but twice, you used the term ‘sexual preference’ to describe those in the LGBTQ community,” Hirono said. “Let me make clear: ‘sexual preference’ is an offensive and outdated term. It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not.”

Hirono cited her concerns that the LGBTQ community will not be protected with Judge Barrett on the bench, and claimed that if Barrett and Scalia’s opinions prevailed, states would have the authority to jail homosexual couples engaging in sexual intercourse.

Barrett apologized and provided further clarity on her comments each time it was brought up. “I certainly didn’t mean and, you know, would never mean to use a term that would cause any offense in the LBGTQ community. So if I did, I greatly apologize for that.”

And again, when Senator Booker addressed the term, Barrett responded, “In using that word I did not mean to imply that it is not an immutable characteristic or that it’s solely a preference. I fully respect the rights of the LGBTQ community. Obergefell was an important precedent of the court.” 

Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett

Caitlin Bassett graduated from Liberty University in 2017 with her Bachelor's in Politics and Policy. She grew up in the great Pacific Northwest, but now calls Northern California home as she pursues ministry school.

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16 comments

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  • People who are bent out of shape will just be bent out of shape. Not-Confucius say “He who sticks his leg out long enough will get his foot stepped on.”

    • Well I want the word imbecile changed to add democrat liberals to the list of its meaning.

      How much more Is the imbecile going to take from the American’s before we Wake up & fight back.

  • Sexual preference is exactly what being lesbien, Bi, Gay, Trans, Queer is. A PREFERENCE. Stop catering to these mentally delusional and dysfunctional minds and take humanity back. This isn’t about country anymore. It’s about humanity

    • According to the new “definition” it is offensive for you to say that you “prefer” to be straight. Now we have a dictionary which just adds confusion to any discussion of the matter, which pretty much makes Merriam Webster now irrelevant.

    • My daughter just pointed out that imbecile does say it’s a Democrat. I went back and looked and sure enough it does right in the middle of the whole definition. Plain as day “Donkey”.

  • Well I want the word imbecile changed to add democrat liberals to the list of its meaning.

    How much more Is the imbecile going to take from the American’s before we Wake up & fight back.

  • I just sent an email to Merriam- Webster in response to this change! Truly a sad day in the world when the democratic party is able to change even this type of history!

  • So now Merriam Webster has become politicized. To change definitions basically overnight because two senators decide something is “offensive” means that meaningful debate is near impossible. What happened to the idea that a word needed to be used, or used in a certain way over a period of time? Also the very idea that a person’s sexuality is something other than a choice is based on pseudo science and says that it is impossible to persuade someone to engage in such a lifestyle, because that would then be a choice. How ridiculous. Furthermore, that would also mean that “being straight” cannot be a choice, and those people also have no choice. So according to such reasoning, being straight is not a choice either. and a straight person cannot become homosexual because that would make it a “preference.”

  • According to the new “definition” it is offensive for you to say that you “prefer” to be straight. Now we have a dictionary which just adds confusion to any discussion of the matter, which pretty much makes Merriam Webster now irrelevant.

  • Wouldn’t you think the publishers of a dictionary would be intelligent people? Does this show how ignorant they have become?

    The meaning of preference did not change, the moron nut jobs are changing with no common sense or the value of it. When did we start to encourage mental health conditions and Stopped give Treatment?

  • Now look up the word ‘whiteness’. The definition refers to the color or pale, lack of color. Look below the definition at how it is used in sentences. Boom!