We aren’t going to find that out any time soon. Insiders have said off the record that she’s partnered. Many others have said that she’s totally straight for guys. Either way, its not going to matter when her confirmation hearing comes up before the Senate Judiciary Committee.
Why aren’t the pols going to grill Elena Kagan on the gay thing?
Because they don’t want to open that can of worms.
The Senate Judiciary Committee includes at least one very high-profile closeted gay man in Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and perhaps two more, if Washington rumors pan out as true.
Why won’t the Republicans on the committee then make a big deal about her sexual orientation? Because shining a spotlight on the closet is the last thing they’re going to want to do with a whopping possible three closet-cases on the committee. Any Republican who brings up Kagan’s gay rumors during the hearing risks having the camera turned back around on themselves or one of their colleagues. Graham, whose rumored-orientation is so public the major media has even picked up the story–which is rare, because they generally ignore stories about the closet–will likely make a point in the members’ closed-door meetings to discourage such a line of questioning.
The fact that her rumored-lesbianism has become such a story in the mainstream media is an anomaly in itself. Generally closeted politicians are shielded by the media. For years before Mark Foley was outed by Lane Hudson, Washington insiders traded stories of his skeezy behavior around pages. Once he was outed, and the anchors began asking politicians “Did you know?” they had no choice but to come clean. They knew but they didn’t say anything. With rumors that red hot on the hill, there is no doubt that the reporters who cover the hill were also in the know. So what happens?
There is an unspoken rule in the mainstream media–especially the mainstream media covering politics–that the closet is never opened. Why?
For one, noone wants to be accused of trafficking in rumors. Certainly, media outlets have a policy of ignoring any stories that are going to sound like gossip. Every unmarried or strong woman in Washington is going to be called a lesbian. Look at Hilary Clinton, Janet Reno, and now Elena Kagan. Then again, sometimes those rumors turn out to be true, as in the case of Barbara Jordan.
Still there’s something a little more. Because–despite the hype–news organizations are still very conservative institutions, one can’t rise in the ranks if one is gay–Anderson Cooper aside. For that reason, many producers, editors and even anchors and reporters go into the closet to protect their careers. The media’s silence on the closet stems from this primarily. The producers, shielding themselves, will avoid any discussion of anyone’s closet. Period.
Finally, because its so easy to say someone is a closet gay, reporting on a gay rumor would just be bad journalism. A few well placed hints by a PR firm is all it takes to get the rumor mill churning. However, if that turns out to be a manufactured story, no media organization would deal well with that kind of egg on their faces.
An organization well-positioned to be able to out people, however, would be Fox News–strangely enough. But when their own top anchor, Shepard Smith, saddles up to the bar right next to Anderson Cooper, they’re not going to move any time soon.
Understand, though, that the closet door swings both ways. There are just as many secrets on the other side of the aisle as there are in the Republican seats. Eric Massa was just the tip of the iceberg for the Democrats. Opening this can of worms would unearth a lot of dirt.
But wouldn’t it be great if–after the explosion and subsequent fallout–everyone could start living openly and honestly in Washington? I think we’d see ENDA passed, DADT and DOMA repealed, and we’d certainly never see another attempt at passing a Constitutional amendment to bar equality. The Washington closet is definitely the biggest obstacle to passing any pro-gay legislation, and those helping with the shielding by hiding the evidence are complicit.
LGBT people will have to continue to wait for the day that lawmakers don’t shy away from supporting our rights because they’re afraid of the truth coming out. Until then, its important, however, we also make a point to push the meme that someone’s sexual orientation–Republican or Democrat–does not affect the job they will do, and that qualified LGBT people are just as qualified for the Supreme Court or even the Presidency as heterosexuals.
Don’t expect that to start with these hearings, however. I’d be absolutely shocked if anyone brought up the lesbian rumors–especially if it were a Republican who did.