Saturday, May 22, 2010

Gays in Government

Is He Light in the Loafers? Is She a Homo in Heels?

Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Elena Kagan, the United States Solicitor General, don’t seem to have much in common. Though both are attorneys, Graham, Colonel in the US Air Force Reserve and buddy of Senator John McCain, is a Republican. Kagan, former dean of Harvard Law School and Obama’s recent Supreme Court Justice nominee, is a Democrat. However, rumors about their sexual orientation surround them both, and the common question is, should it matter?

When then Congressman Lindsey Graham, ran for the US Senate in South Carolina to succeed Strom Thurmond in 2002, Dick Harpootlian, the Democratic Party chairman in South Carolina, put out a press release saying that Graham, was "a little too light in his loafers". Graham said it "was intended to slander me" and gay writer Andrew Sullivan said it was an example of "liberal gay-baiting." Harpootlian claimed he didn't realize “a little too light in his loafers” was a euphemism for homosexuality.

Recently, William Gheen, a zealot for strict enforcement of immigration laws and head of Americans for Legal Immigration, asked Graham to "tell people about your alternative lifestyle and your homosexuality." Graham supports immigration reform and Gheen said that immigration reform activists threatened to out Graham if he didn’t support comprehensive immigration reform rather than more restrictive laws and their strict enforcement.

On May 17, the Associated Press discussed questions about Kagan’s sexual orientation. "She’s 50, single and has a short haircut. Yup, definitely a lesbian. Or is she? And if so (though that appears to be a big "if"), so what? Should it matter?”

The article said that doubts about Kagan’s sexuality aren’t new but speculation about it is greater now than ever. Uncertainty about her sexual orientation increased when Obama announced her nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court a week ago and it has been handled ineptly.

Kenneth Sherrill, an expert in the politics of gay and lesbian rights at Hunter College in New York said, "Even the leadership of the Democratic party is still uncomfortable handling the issue. They don’t know how to handle the question with a ’So what if she is?’" I agree. I was a strong supporter of gay, lesbian bisexual, and transgender rights when I was the Democratic nominee for Attorney General in South Carolina in 1998 and have continued to be on my radio show and in my essays.

Acceptance of gay men and lesbians is a reality now in our pop culture with television shows having gay characters. Increasingly, we are open about homosexual family members and friends.

But with gay public officials, coming out is a big deal, and same sex marriage is a potential issue for the US Supreme Court. The Obama administration appears to think the country is not ready for a conversation about a lesbian on the court.

The Associated Press was told by a White House official that Kagan was not a lesbian, after media reports on the issue surfaced when the administration was considering her. The Obama staffer provided the information only on condition of anonymity. A month before Kagan was nominated, the White House criticized CBS News for an online blog by a Republican, who said she might become the "first openly gay justice."

Ben LaBolt, a White House spokesman criticized CBS, claiming it put out "false charges." Using the word "charges" sounds like it would be a bad thing if Kagan were a lesbian. Later LaBolt said he was talking about the blogger’s suggestions that Obama had an ulterior political motive to please gay rights activists who might help him get reelected. The White House launched a Kagan-is-not-gay campaign that was picked up by Maureen Dowd whose “Supremely Girly Girl” in the New York Times depicted Kagan as a man chaser.

Dowd wrote, “Ignore those wicked whispers about her sexual orientation. I cannot categorically assure you that she never flirted with another young woman when she was at Princeton. But I can categorically assure you that if she did, it would only have been to impress the cute guy in her Philosophy 101 seminar.”

Gay bloggers have implied that Kagan should make a public statement out of respect for herself and the gay community. "In a free society in the 21st century, it is not illegitimate to ask," wrote Andrew Sullivan, "And it is cowardly not to tell."

If Graham is gay he has a case of the J. Edgar Hoover syndrome. The legendary former FBI Director was a gay cross-dresser, according to credible reports, while engaging in homophobic rhetoric and gay bashing. Graham voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, an anti-gay bill, as a US House member in 1996. In 2004, he voted for the Federal Marriage Amendment, another gay bashing legislative initiative. The gay rights organization, Human Rights Campaign, gave Graham a 0% rating in every reporting period from 1995-2008, other than 1999, when he received a rating of 9% on Gay Rights issues. Graham has consistently denied basic human rights to gay and lesbian people. Let’s hope he isn’t another political hypocrite. Otherwise, his sexual orientation shouldn’t matter.

Why doesn’t the White House just say, “Elena Kagan is not a lesbian, but so what if she was one?” And Lindsey Graham should say, “I’m not gay, but so what if I was?”


  1. ...sort of like McCain's famous comment about Obama during the campaign, (paraphrase), "he's not a Muslim, he's a decent family man."

  2. Right on Riley. Nothin' like political innuendo to make a point by allusion.

    Thanks for your comment.

  3. In a perfert world, we should only be concerned if someone if doing their job, not what their sexuality is, which shouldn't be influencing how they do their job. In a perfect world, we all should be doing what is RIGHT, not what going to get us elected, get us appointed, or get us accepted. LGBT equality is ths RIGHT thing to do and by all of us doing our jobs, that can be accomplished, not by having hidden agendas or motives. What's RIGHT is RIGHT in any light.

  4. On target as usual Tom! As I've said many times before...We don't have to beg for a seat at the's our damned table!

  5. Bruce,

    You are RIGHT. Graham might be gay, or not. I don't know, but his anti-gay/homophobic voting
    record is shameful. Extreme right wingers seem to like gay people as long as they stay "in their place" which is as far back in the closet as possible.

    I wish we were back on the radio so we could raise raise hell with the homophobes every day.

    Thanks for your comment.

  6. Thanks for your comment, Charlie.

    I agree. What the heck should sexual preferences have to do with government service?

  7. I couldn't agree more, Tom. The focus on homosexuality is a smokescreen for hatred - plain and simple. To so many people DIFFERENT = DEFICIENT. Teaching our children to despise anyone different than mom and dad is supposed to represent decent family values. Why is it so hard to see the hypocrisy there?

  8. Good article.
    As the mother of a gay son and the founder of a PFLAG chapter in Columbia, SC in 1982, I have counseled many parents once they learn that their child is gay or lesbian. I can't begin to count the times that I have had been asked to explain why their child is gay. I tell them that no one knows what determines homosexuality but no one knows what determines heterosexuality either. I go on to say that it is not a choice and it cannot be changed. I have gotten so sick of reciting this over and over when I really want to say, "What difference does it make whether it is a choice or not?" Just get over it and love your child the same as you did before you got the news...he/she is still the same person.

  9. Thanks for your comment.

    You express my sentiments very well when you wrote:

    "What difference does it make whether it is a choice or not?" Just get over it and love your child the same as you did before you got the news...he/she is still the same person.

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