Friday, May 14, 2010

Supreme Court Gay Conspiracy Theories Have Jumped The Shark

There are a lot of rumors that Elena Kagan, President Obama's nominee to replace Justice John Paul Stevens on the Supreme Court, is gay. Presumably, these rumors began because she has short hair and has never married. A lot of articles about her, including one in the New York Times, have run photos of her that seem to highlight, for lack of a better way of putting it, her lesbianish qualities. This photograph of her playing softball, for instance.

Some might say that the softball photo (and others, for instance of her sporting terrible hair and baggy sweaters) are entirely judgment-neutral, and that I am paranoid or a secret homophobe or something of the sort for reading into those photos the publisher's attempt to imply that Kagan is a lesbian. I can't help it, it just jumps out at me - out of ALL of the photographs of Elena Kagan, they choose one of her playing softball, a sport that has a reputation as being particularly popular among lesbians? To me, that could only have been intentional - a clear attempt to cater to those people who suspected Elena Kagan of being a lesbian. My suspicion that newspapers intended to create a controversy over Kagan's sexuality in an attempt to manufacture a "story" they then write numerous follow-up articles about is supported by the way that those same newspapers reported on John Roberts' nomination as Chief Justice in 2005.

John Roberts did not get married until he was 41 years old, and he and his wife adopted their children. His lengthy bachelorhood and the lack of "proof" that he and his wife had consummated their marriage were cited, by some, as evidence that John Roberts was gay. The New York Times, in a profile of Roberts that did not explicitly discuss his sexuality, but which did go out of its way to highlight his single years and the relatively late age at which he got married, ran these two photos of Roberts, among others.

That photo - of a bunch of dudes, and a moustache, and a pie hanging out together on Martha's Vineyard - seen together with this photo of Roberts rocking a sweet pair of plaid trousers in the late-60's, were red meat to the Roberts-is-a-secret-homosexual set. For a group of ostensibly liberal people, that was certainly not very progressive of them, and, again, Roberts had fifty-five years' worth of photographs, so why would the Times deliberately choose those two photographs in particular? What are plaid pants supposed to signify?*

So, please - do not ready anything into Elena Kagan's unmarried status. The law is her husband, and has been good to her. Please do not read anything into the fact that Roberts did not get married until he was in his forties, and most definitely do not read anything into the fact that his children are adopted. Evaluate them on their credentials (not to Kagan supporters - that includes her experience in the "real" world), and not on any unconfirmed suspicions about their sexuality. Elena Kagan and Chief Justice Roberts are two of the most accomplished lawyers of their generation, and that wouldn't change, even if people's suspicions of them were true.

*No, really, I'm asking. My dad, um . . . Floyd . . . Garrett, wants to know.


Ellen said...

In case anyone didn't get the reference, the New York Post paired the photo with a column by a woman with no connection to Kagan about being the token straight woman on a lesbian softball team. Classy! (I read it over someone's shoulder.)

I agree with you -- the issue is a needless distraction from Kagan's real credentials. And frankly, if she had a husband and kids who were still at home, the same people would be questioning whether she could "balance" her job and her family, something I'm guessing no one brought up about John Roberts.

As for the plaid pants, I always thought they signified preppy or "old golfer," but I could be wrong.

BoilerHorn said...

Good thing Roberts never dressed up as an American Indian, Construction Worker, Motorcycle Policeman, or Midshipman before a visit to the YMCA. Thank God there are no pictures of that :)

That said, I am a bit more concerned about Kagan's real credentials. Her lack of industry and judicial experience is one concern, but it pales in comparison to her 1996 position on the government's role in free speech.

Plaid pants always signified that you (or your parents) lived in the 70s.

Wade Garrett said...

Boilerhorn - Her lack of judicial experience is a bit of a problem, but not too big of one for me. A lot of justices did not have judicial experience before being appointed to the Supreme Court, including former Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and former Chief Justice Warren.

The word "corporate" means something different to lawyers than it does to most people. Generally, "corporate law" means mergers and acquisitions, issues involving the management and the board, advising a company how to comply with labor and environmental regulations, that sort of thing. Litigation is usually just "litigation," few firms other than the very large ones have special corporate litigation departments.

A significant percentage of the Supreme Court's cases deal with Constitutional issues, disputes between the different branches of government, and criminal appeals. Its not like being a trial court judge, where you hear whatever happens to come before you. So, judicial experience is nice, but being a legal scholar of her caliber and somebody who has dealt with those sort of cases as the Solicitor General is a very good resume for a Supreme Court nominee to have.