The controversy over a blogger's assertion
Supreme Court front-runner candidate Elena Kagan might be gay is one of
those unfortunate intersections of politics and gossip. But, irrespective
of the rumor and the blogger's now-redacted reporting of it, what does
this flap tell us about the sexual politics of nominating a justice to
the most powerful court in the U.S.? Kagan is no fringe lefty, after all--her conservative leanings on
some issues have inspired a liberal
backlash against her presence
on the short-list. In the
hyper-politicized world of Supreme Court nominations, what does it mean
that we're even discussing a potential nominee's sexuality? Why does it
- Groups Exploit Sexuality As Political Tool The
Atlantic's Marc Ambinder explored,
before Thursday's controversy, the "baffling whisper campaign among both
gay rights activists and social conservatives" about Kagan's sexuality.
"It's hard to have a rational discussion in an atmosphere dominated by
shrill and self-interested voices." He writes of Kagan and other
high-profile women who have been similarly labeled:
victims, not because being gay labeled bad, falsely or otherwise, is
shameful, but because the intention behind the labeling is often
nefarious and stereotypical. Gay groups want to appropriate and use
these public figures to advance a cause, and conservatives, many of
them, consider homosexuality and gender non-conformity to be fundamental
- White House Unintentionally Furthering
Homophobic Assumptions Gawker's Alex Pareene asks, "Why is the
White House treating lesbian rumors like allegations of vampiric
necrophilia?" He writes, "If Kagan is gay, the White House
shouldn't be forcefully demanding that people stop calling her gay. If
she isn't gay, they still shouldn't be forcefully demanding corrections
like something incredibly untoward and terrible was suggested. Wouldn't
it be much nicer and more progressive to politely ask for a correction
and say it's no biggie?"
- Is the Closet Disappearing?
Politico's Ben Smith muses, "An unexpected
consequence of the broad tolerance of gays and lesbians is how little
space there is left in the closet." Kagan "has the misfortune of taking
the stage just as that line is dissolving. ... It's a transitional
moment in public life, and a mildly uncomfortable public moment results,
but it's hard to see much more going on here."
- GOP No Longer
Targeting Sexuality A number of pundits noted that Republicans
have, so far, largely shrugged this off. Gawker's Alex Pareene writes,
"ironically, the GOP doesn't actually seem interested in going after a
nominee for their sexuality, because stuff like being a Socialist or
whatever is playing a lot better." Politico's Ben Smith nods, "Republicans on
the Hill decided last year, when two open lesbians were considered for
the court, that they wouldn't make an issue of it. And that's a good
political decision: Most Americans don't think sexual orientation should
be a factor in hiring."
- Shows Brutality of SCOTUS Battles
The Washington Post's Howard Kurtz sighs, "The flare-up underscores how quickly
the battle over a Supreme Court nominee -- or even a potential nominee
-- can turn searingly personal." Kurtz wrote earlier of the media's reticence to dive into
speculation over Kagan's sexuality, "maybe because a candidate's sexual
orientation is none of our business?"
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