Merriam-Webster dictionary includes warning under the term "sexual preference"

by Jenny Mount · Oct 15th, 2020 4:11 pm

Last Updated Oct 19th, 2020 at 12:36 pm

Merriam-Webster dictionary has labeled the term "sexual preference" as "offensive" after Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett was accused of being "anti-LGBTQ" for saying it.

Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) attacked Barrett on Tuesday by claiming she deliberately used the term during her confirmation hearing.

"It is used by anti-LGBTQ activists to suggest that sexual orientation is a choice. It is not. Sexual orientation is a key part of a person's identity. If it is your view that sexual orientation is merely a preference … then the LGBTQ community should be rightly concerned whether you would uphold their constitutional right to marry," said Hirono, insisting it was "not an accident" that Barrett used the term.

Later that same day, Merriam-Webster added an "offensive" warning under its general listing for "preference" before the part listing "sexual preference."

"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 dictionary said in its guidance.

Representatives of the dictionary defended the change.

"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," said Peter Sokolowski, Merriam-Webster's editor-at-large. "A revision made in response to an entry's increased attention differs only in celerity — as always, all revisions reflect evidence of use."


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