Tonight's letter is in reference to a post on a former coworker's excellent blog Cultural Minefield. While he and I agree on very little, politically, he is the kind of intellectual I can't help but love to disagree with, especially when I know he can out-argue me on just about anything. He is a brilliant and reasonable individual and I miss him dearly. His post was a comment on Elena Kagan's rumored sexual orientation, and cites this article, for those looking to read more.
Dear Mr. President,
Today you announced Elena Kagan as your nominee for the Supreme Court. I am hardly qualified to comment on the virtues of this; while I relish the idea of the gender balance of the court tipping ever so slightly toward a more realistic reflection of the country, I don't value the symbolism of a female justice above the practical questions about her legal philosophies. I think that your familiarity with her and her views are enough for me, for now, to hope for the best. I've heard murmurs in the media, especially on blogs, about Kagan's sexual orientation. That your administration has refused to comment on this is expected and correct; it is certainly Kagan's prerogative to out herself if she chooses. I cannot imagine accepting a position that would require such scrutiny while simultaneously attempting to keep hidden something like sexual orientation, which the press will pursue perhaps even more doggedly than an affair scandal.
One commentator compared her sexual orientation to her religion, saying that while neither were should exclude her from nomination, it was significant that her religion could be openly discussed while her sexuality could not. I don't agree. For one thing, a person's political, moral and social views are influenced by religion, and religious persecution in this country is far less socially acceptable than the homophobia that is law in many states. There is no amendment to any state's constitution banning Jewish marriage. Some questioned the existence of a "secret" spouse who would be, hypothetically, hidden from the public. I find this highly amusing, given that those conservatives speculating about her secret marriage would have public records to confirm their suspicions, were they less successful at preventing lesbians in this country from openly marrying.
I understand why Kagan would want to hide her hypothetical homosexuality; it is perfectly reasonable to fear the reaction of our country's bigoted populace, not to mention the insulting questions and doubt cast on her objectivity sure to arise during her confirmation hearings in the Senate. I don't know that I could endure it, myself. However, if she is a lesbian, I hope she does speak openly about it, and that the White House does not discourage her from doing so. It is long past time that gay and lesbian Americans enjoyed the same rights of any of us, and, while appointing an openly gay Supreme Court Justice might be more symbolic than tangibly beneficial to the gay community, the most valuable consequence might be for the American government to demonstrate it isn't completely out of touch with American values. That, whatever small-minded individuals who might see it as disqualifying may say, the White House and the Senate are determined to confirm the most qualified individual, and believe, as do much of the American public, that a person's sexual orientation is neither a source of shame or basis for criticism. An expression of hope for a day when such facts about a person will actually arose no more interest or controversy from the media than their religion.
I look forward to the confirmation hearing, in the, (dim, I admit) hope that this one will focus more on the nominee's qualifications and legal philosophy than on any absurd "wise Latina" minutiae; should this fantasy not come to pass, I hope that Kagan is prepared for the difficult and undignified road ahead. I wish her luck.