Hanna Rosin rules the question out of bounds:
As our own Emily Bazelon and Dahlia Lithwick pointed out last week, unless anyone comes up with actual proof that Elena Kagan is a lesbianand NO, this is not an invitation to go huntingthe whisper campaigns and the whisper campaigns about the whisper campaigns should end. Whether that stops people from endlessly Googling “Elena Kagan” and “gay” is another story.
But, as Hanna notes, the president himself, by virtue of his criterion of picking Justices who have diverse experiences and have experienced discrimination, has already alluded to private facts about Kagan's life:
Law was not just an “intellectual exercise” for her, but something that affects the “lives of ordinary people.” Behind the law, he said, she understands that “there are stories of people’s lives.” This naturally led into a little biographical sketch of Kagan. We learned that she is the granddaughter of immigrants, that she comes from a family of teachers, and that neither of her parents is still alive.
Is Hanna really saying that a person's sexual orientation in today's society is less of an issue than the fact that she comes from a family of teachers or is the grand-daughter of immigrants? Please. The premise is absurd on its face.
Did Obama shy away from Sotomayor's ethnicity? So why is it somehow unseemly or a function of "whispers" to ask an obvious empirical question to which there is an empirical answer?
By the way, Hanna. I am not whispering. I am asking in the same voice and with same decibels as I would ask any question of a public official who may, in fact, rule at some point on the very constitutional grounds of my own civil marriage. The only thing that could conceivably put this question into the zone of "whispers" and "privacy" is homophobia - and yes, that means the homophobia of liberal journalists.
In fact, the entire premise of Hanna's post is that there is something wrong with asking someone in the public eye about their sexual orientation. There isn't. This is not the same thing as "outing" people. It is simply asking them to tell, and refusing to be co-opted by double standards. Kagan can refuse to answer; or she can tell the truth, whatever it is, and move on. Those are her options. But the press has only one professional option: to ask a factual question that deserves a factual answer.
But they won't. Of course they won't. There is almost a competition to refrain from asking - so as to burnish one's reputation for seriousness and integrity.
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