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Gay Rights? We Still Have a Long, Long Way To Go…

May 12, 2010

It’s a sad day when all people can whisper about is whether or not a single woman in her early 50’s and who is the next Supreme Court nominee, happens to be [or not be] a lesbian. Just when I think we’ve come so far, these reminders pop up:

Elena Kagan is not a lesbian, one of her best friends told POLITICO Tuesday night, responding to persistent rumors and innuendo about the Supreme Court nominee’s personal life.

“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.”

Walzer, half amused and half appalled to be discussing her friend’s sexual orientation, agreed to be interviewed after Kagan’s supporters decided they should tactfully put an end to the rumor, which White House officials had already tried to squelch in background interviews with reporters. She said she decided to talk to POLITICO because the discussion of Kagan’s personal life has become a “distraction.”

“It’s taking away from substantive discussion of the issues from a really substantive person who deserves to be given the opportunity to address the substantive issues,” she said.

Another friend, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a member of Kagan’s social circle at Princeton University, wanted to make the same point as Walzer. “I did not go out with her, but other guys did,” he said in an email Tuesday night. “I don’t think it is my place to say more.”

The rumor about Kagan has circulated for months on gay blogs and became a matter of controversy when it was cited as fact by a conservative blogger on the website of CBS News, drawing a sharp White House rebuttal. It has, since, been a source of particular fascination in some socially conservative circles and particularly among gay and lesbian political observers, some of whom objected volubly Tuesday to a Wall Street Journal cover image of Kagan playing softball, which they perceived as a jab at a stereotype of lesbians.

The result has been an awkward dilemma for the traditional media, for whom reporting about homosexuality has always been considered to be off limits. Reporters and bloggers have debated, publicly and privately, the propriety of asking whether Kagan is gay. But Walzer – who has spoken regularly to the press this week – said that in a series of interviews with reporters she had been asked only obliquely about the nominee’s “social life.”

Read more:

This is a photo that accompanied a story about Kagan in the Wall Street Journal yesterday:

Now, I know we all realize that all women who have played softball are not lesbians but we also know about the stereotype about women who play softball. The point is, of all the photos the WSJ could have chosen from Kagan’s past, they pick one of her playing softball? In light of the fact that the gay rumors have reached a crescendo over the past few days, I can’t help but think their motives were not benign.

Whether Elena Kagan is or isn’t gay has nothing to do with her fitness to serve on the SCOTUS. And I will say, while any person has a right to proudly declare their heterosexuality in the face of false rumors that they may be gay, there is a point where all the vociferous denials coming from the White House and now Kagan’s friends, start to be a bit condescending or offensive to gay people because at times these denials can seem to suggest that there is something wrong with being gay.

Unless a public official has put their sexuality at issue- for example a member of Congress who has made a career out of opposing gay rights who turns out to be gay (or a homophobic co-founder of a group like the Family Research Council which claims to be able to “cure” people of their homosexuality, hiring someone from to accompany him on vacation) I don’t think such rumors are newsworthy.

And if she is a lesbian? More power to her! But it’s not our business unless she chooses to make it our business and the mainstream media needs to stop acting like Entertainment Tonight and start focusing on substantive issues like her legal views, what she did during her tenure at Harvard and as an adviser for President Clinton etc.

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. discourseincsharpminor permalink
    May 12, 2010 10:32 pm

    It would be lovely if the whole of the American public were as blissfully indifferent to Elena Kagen’s sexual orientation as I am, but I know that is not the case. I can just imagine that people will be furiously emailing their senators urging them not to confirm her simply because of what she may or may not be. It is strange that these rumors are floating the day after the general consensus was that she would be an inevitable confirmation unless something major came along. I don’t think this qualifies as something major, but many people undoubtedly do and this is an election year.

    I completely agree with Stacy, lets hear about the issues and leave the rumors to the likes of TMZ. I don’t think that the public has the right to pry into any appointee’s personal business. Think about it – nobody has to declare their orientation on, say, a job application. Why should we expect political appointment to differ in that regard from any other hiring process?

  2. Tovah permalink
    May 13, 2010 5:37 am

    It’s unbelievable how the MSM have been dutifully covering this story which is just feeding conservative opposition to her. That a woman has to have her college roommate vouch for the fact that she “likes” men is really unbelievable. It would be nice if the WH would take the high road and come out and say all this talk of her personal life is totally inappropriate and irrelevant to her ability to serve on the court. Instead, they are giving off the record quotes denying she’s gay.

    The dems are really not comfortable with gay rights when it comes right down to it. Sure, they are better than the GOP but all the Dems do is make lofty pronouncements followed up by nothing.

  3. HillaryFan permalink
    May 13, 2010 5:41 am

    Right wing talk radio is really going after Kagan on this and shame on the media for giving this story legs.

    If she were a man would they be as open in their rumor-mongering and would they need to send out public declarations that she is in fact heterosexual?

    Michael Savage, who is a hateful slimebag, went off on how unattractive he thinks she is and even said that should have been a consideration when Obama picked her. So I guess he thinks Scalia is beautiful? It’s just crazy.

    • discourseincsharpminor permalink
      May 13, 2010 11:14 am

      I heard mentioned (very briefly) that when former Supreme Court Justice Souter was going through the confirmation process the same implications were made because he was also unmarried, but there was no 24 hour news cycle at that point, so it didn’t get near as much traction.

      So now only sexy people can be hired, or does this just apply to women? I only ask because Robert Gates (another political appointee) didn’t have to strut down a catwalk before being named Secretary of Defense and, as HillaryFan pointed out, Justice Scalia is no oil painting.

  4. Steve permalink
    May 13, 2010 5:43 am

    Shame on the administration for not publicly condemning this. But we all know Obama is really uncomfortable with the whole gay thing anyway. On that note, apparently Secretary Gates has been able to hold up the overturning of DADT so they can do more studies on the effect that it will have on the troops even though a ton of studies have already been done- Obama has given Gates the ok to do this.

    I’m not sure why people interested in gay rights ever thought Obama was their guy. It was obvious he wasn’t- and still isn’t.

  5. October 20, 2010 7:29 pm


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