open secrets

If You Demand to Know Elena Kagan’s Sexuality, Are You Demeaning All Women?

Even the National Organization for Women makes the mistake of confusing one’s sexuality with sex. It’s nonsense like this that muddles the entire point of knowing whether Elena Kagan plays for our team.

Asking whether Kagan is a lesbian “goes too far,” writes Erin Matson, NOW’s action vice president. “Declaring Ms. Kagan a lesbian, or encouraging the media and/or senators to ask her to identify her sexual orientation, as former Bush speechwriters, FOX News commentators and the American Family Association have started to do, is inappropriate at best and a sort of pornographic McCarthyism at worst. Powerful women are often dragged down to a sexual level, whether it’s lesbian-baiting as in the case of Solicitor General Kagan, being called a ‘ball-breaker’ or having a face digitally imposed on top of a scantily clad model. Using words (or even Photoshop) to create sex tape-like imagery for women in the public eye is insulting and degrading to all women, period. Such behavior sends a message that women who dare to try to be the ‘first,’ ‘second’ or ‘third’ in a field will have to pay a price.”

Matson is right about one thing: Far too often women in positions of power are derided sexually. But objective interest in Kagan’s sexual orientation has very little, or even nothing, to do with what she does behind closed doors. We would be asking the same questions about Obama’s Supreme Court nominee if the president selected a man. We want to know as much relevant information about the candidate as we can, so we know whether to lobby our senators to approve or deny the president’s choice.

Without being able to discuss Kagan’s sexual orientation, we cannot know macro issues (like whether she’s experienced a certain type of discrimination and thus knows first-hand the importance of eradicating it) or micro issues (like whether her partner is an oil company executive, or someone who could stand to benefit from an upcoming ruling). And knowing whether Kagan is hetero or homo isn’t even much of a factor in the same-sex marriage debate, which will inevitably reach the Supreme Court; she is just as qualified, as any straight or gay person is, to decide an issue of equality.

The White House has told us Kagan is not a lesbian, and saying so amounts to a “false charge”; sources who have spoken to Queerty say otherwise. But none of this is about outing a person who wants to stay in the closet. It’s about holding accountable a woman who might be interpreting the Constitution for the next four decades. Nothing is off the table.