Sorry, Kagan might be gay
Over at Politico, Ben Smith quotes friends of Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan who state that Kagan is in fact straight:
“I’ve known her for most of her adult life and I know she’s straight,” said Sarah Walzer, Kagan’s roommate in law school and a close friend since then. “She dated men when we were in law school, we talked about men — who in our class was cute, who she would like to date, all of those things. She definitely dated when she was in D.C. after law school, when she was in Chicago – and she just didn’t find the right person.”
The story then quotes, of all people,a certain high-level politico who had his own sex scandal:
Another friend, former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, a member of Kagan’s social circle at Princeton University, wanted to make the same point as Walzer. “I did not go out with her, but other guys did,” he said in an email Tuesday night. “I don’t think it is my place to say more.”
Smith’s story has been taken as proof positive that Kagan is not gay. For example, Andrew Sullivan, who waged a brief campaign to determine whether Kagan is gay or straight, abandoned his bid after the story was published. But color me skeptical.
The story doesn’t provide testimony that Kagan is straight today. It provides testimony that Kagan was straight as recently as 15 years ago, or a few years later.
According to Walzer, Kagan was straight when she taught at the University of Chicago Law School. Her last year in Chicago was 1995. And according to Walzer, Kagan dated men after law school in Washington, D.C. Walzer’s timeline is ambiguous because Kagan worked in D.C. after law school from 1987 to 1991 and, after her tenure in Chicago, from 1995 to 1999. Regardless, none of Kagan’s friends mention whether she dated men at Harvard from 1999 to 2009.
It is fair to assume that Kagan did date men at Harvard. But questioning whether she did is fair too. Some people turn gay late in life. Witness former New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey, who was married twice and had children before he announced that he was a “gay American.” Former Clinton pollster Mark Penn even coined a term who out themselves or discover they are gay in their 30s or 40s: late-breaking gays. As Penn wrote in Microtrends:
Such Late-Breaking Gays are a growing force in America. While exact numbers are hard to come by, experts estimate that there are at least 2 million gays and lesbians who were once married to people of the opposte sex or still are. According to a 2002 survey by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ National Survery of Family Growth, 3.4 pecent of currently married men aged 15-44—or nearly 900,000—say they’ve had sex with other men (although such reporting, it should be noted, is broader than reporting that one is gay. When you add in men who were once married, you get over 1.2 million men in America who are or were married and who report having sex with other men.
Penn acknowledges that gay men are more likely to come out late than women. But, he says, that’s because there are more gay men than lesbians. Perhaps a reader could tell me that women are less likely to “break late” than men.
In any event, the topic of Kagan’s sexuality is interesting for several reasons. Her nomination is a proxy for the coming fight over gay marriage in the courts. Many gay and social conservatives argue that a high-court nominee’s sexual orientation sheds light on his or her rulings. But I think the story is interesting as a political matter: Is the Obama administration telling the truth about Kagan’s sexual orientation?
Remember, the White House’s basic position has been that she’s straight, and don’t you dare suggest otherwise. And unlike Andrew Sullivan, who thinks that the outing of Kagan would redound to her political benefit, I think that if Kagan is outed, the White House would come across as having lied to the public.