Why is the White House treating lesbian rumors like allegations of vampiric necrophilia? When CBS republished a column repeating the rumor that possible Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan is a lesbian, the White House responded furiously. Because lesbians are terrible?
The White House press office blew up. Anita Dunn said: "The fact that they've chosen to become enablers of people posting lies on their site tells us where the journalistic standards of CBS are in 2010." Spokesman Ben LaBolt said the column "made false charges." ("Charges!" Being a successful lesbian is a crime in Barack Obama's America.)
Here's the deal: lots of people seem to think Elena Kagan is at least semi-open about having a female partner. According to the rumors, she's officially stayed mostly in the closet for years so that she could eventually win a nomination like this. (And now, 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.)
But! The White House (not Kagan) says she is not gay. (Which leaves the door open for bi, doesn't it?) And no one has just straight-up asked Kagan herself, apparently because it would be rude. Journalism!
Here's the problem: the speculation came from Ben Domenech, a conservative blogger who was fired from the Washington Post a number of years back for plagiarism. So it reads as a possible attempt at a smear campaign, I guess.
1. Elena Kagan (49), Solicitor General of the United States. The likeliest candidate, and it was somewhat of a surprise she didn't get picked last time. Pluses: would please much of Obama's base, follows diversity politics of Sotomayor with first openly gay justice (so would Karlan and Sullivan). [Update: While Karlan and Sullivan are open about it, I have to correct my text here to say that Kagan is apparently still closeted — odd, because her female partner is rather well known in Harvard circles.]
That doesn't really sound like a negative smear. "I offer my sincere apologies to Ms. Kagan if she is offended at all by my repetition of a Harvard rumor in a speculative blog post," Ben later wrote.
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?
(Useless Human Rights Campaign treated that mild rumor-mongering similarly, which is insane, because it is their mission to help remove the stigma associated with being gay, isn't it? It's "straight out of the right-wing playbook" to ask if a prominent politician is gay, if they've never said anything on the subject either way, and if they're widely admired and respected? Apparently these right-wingers are more interested in seeking out successful LGBT role models than HRC!)