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Grasping at Gay - The LAMP

Grasping at Gay

By May 12, 2010 News No Comments

Elena Kagan

Earlier this week, President Obama nominated Solicitor General Elena Kagan to replace John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court. Since then, mass media seems intent to maintain not many more than two talking points about Kagan: She has no prior experience as a judge, and maybe she’s gay.

In a way, the two points are related. With relatively little background on Kagan, the media doesn’t have much to talk about. She has been immersed in the academia side of law since 1999, and has been very private about her life and ideological views through the better part of her career. Even the New York Times, when highlighting her notable writings and statements, pulled almost exclusively from her 2009 confirmation hearing as Solicitor General. We don’t have anything like the “wise Latina woman” statement from Sonia Sotomayor, or Samuel Alito’s membership to a Princeton alumni club accused of trying to limit entry of women and minorities to the university.

Instead, we have her opposition to military recruitment on the Harvard campus because of the military’s ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy, and a picture of her playing baseball in 1993. The Wall Street Journal ran that photo on its front page for Monday, May 11, the same day Obama officially nominated her to the Court. Some gay activists were incensed over the picture, other gay activists thought people taking offense to the photo were being hypersensitive, and the White House refused to comment on Kagan’s sexual preferences., “a site with homosexual tendencies,” has a section devoted to Kagan news which runs the gamut of friends claiming she’s not gay, critics saying that if she is gay then she is unfit to judge, others asking if she would have to recuse herself from “gay cases” and a slew of other opinions which more or less enforce the idea that what a Supreme Court nominee does in her personal relationships is, in fact, our business.

That Kagan’s sexuality has become one of the dominating lines of her media narrative is not especially surprising. However, it is still disappointing that, lacking some other controversy, mainstream media is happy to fill its news cycle with stereotyping rather than taking the extra effort to dig deeper into facts and perform a meaningful analysis of them.

–Emily Long

This post was originally published on the IFC Make Media Matter blog here.