"Charge" Elena Kagan With Her Qualifications

OK. So people think I know who is gay and who isn't. They think that, as a gay rights activist, I have access to "the directory." They think that my 'gadar' is of the highest possible caliber.

It is not as finely tuned as you may think. I mean, you could have knocked me over with a feather when Meredith Baxter Birney came out. Although one of my former staff members at GLAAD named his dog after her so maybe that should have been a clue. I can't really say.

So, you may ask, "Come on, Joan. What about Elena Kagan?"

Here's what I have to say about Elena Kagan.

Regardless of whether she is gay, straight, in or out, she is, best I can figure, highly qualified to be a Supreme Court Justice. The more I read about her, the more strongly I feel that she is a first rate choice. Not because I am gay. Because I am an American who believes that the Supreme Court should be filled with the best and the brightest. And she is, without question, a member in good standing of that club.

Here's what I have to say about Elena Kagan.

I worked really, really hard for the election of Barack Obama for many reasons. But I think that this president would get at least two SCOTUS picks and I wanted Obama to be the 'decider.' When I see the CV of Sotomayor and Kagan, my heart sings.

Here's what else I have to say about Elena Kagan.

The White House has, up to this point, done a significant disservice to Ms. Kagan and to the gay community with its reaction to the rumblings that Ms. Kagan is a member of my club - aka, a lesbian.

I take that back. I'm being too kind.

The White House has said things that qualify as homophobic.

So, the CBS reporter "charged" Ms. Kagan with homosexuality? I am not naïve to think we are beyond the use of such outrageous and homophobic references but I did think the Obama administration was better than this.

The fact that the White House has nominated Elena Kagan given the 'rumblings' is a big deal. I am not taking that for granted for a single minute. But for an administration that prides itself on eloquence and a commitment to social justice and fairness for all? I expect better.

What does better look like? Stay on a message. Plain and simple. "Ms. Kagan's sexual orientation is absolutely irrelevant to her qualifications to serve as the next Supreme Court Justice of the United States."

Elena Kagan will be the "it" girl for this next news cycle. Reporters will write about nothing else. Then there will be confirmation hearings. The rumblings will continue and both the journalism community and the White House will address them.

As a gay rights activist and as a person who believes in employment non-discrimination, there is a wrong way and a right way to deal with the rumblings. The wrong way is to imply that homosexuality is something you are charged with. The right way is to say that Elena Kagan's sexual orientiation, gay or straight, is irrelevant to her ability to be one of the finest Supreme Court picks of our time.

And by the way, while the days of harassment, bullying, hate crimes, teen suicide are not behind us, the days of 'charging' people for being gay are. Thanks, by the way to a ruling by (drumroll, please) the Supreme Court of the United States.