You are using an outdated browser.
Please upgrade your browser
and improve your visit to our site.
Skip Navigation

Don’t Nominate Her Because She’s Gay. Do It Only If She’s Worthy.

My colleague Richard Just presents a provocative case not only for why President Obama should appoint an openly gay Supreme Court Justice, but also how such a move would be a political point-scorer for Democrats. I respect Richard's argument and agree that an openly-gay appointee would do wonders for the visibility of gay people in America. But I want to use the opportunity to make a broader, related point. Namely, that I oppose using a person's sexual orientation as a job qualification for the same reasons that I oppose the privileging of a candidate based upon their race or sex: It boils individuals down to their immutable traits. The only aspect that Obama should consider as he weighs his options over the next few days is the candidates' jurisprudence.

In January, when gay groups were similarly clamoring for an openly-gay cabinet appointee, I wrote a piece for The Advocate explaining this argument, and I stand by it today. Here's an excerpt:

But at this point, thanks to the blatant way gay rights groups have gone about campaigning for it, such a selection would be perceived as cynical tokenism. And given all the public pressure directed at Obama to appoint a gay person to a high-profile job, the appointee would automatically be viewed as the recipient of preferential treatment. With so much attention devoted to that appointee's sexuality--as opposed to their actual qualifications--the first openly gay cabinet secretary would be robbed of their individuality, and their accomplishments in office would come second to their sexual orientation.

Like everyone else, gays should be judged by their abilities. This quest for homosexual affirmative action is a throwback to the mau-mauing of women's and ethnic groups during the Clinton administration. As with racial and gender preferences, when important positions are "set aside" for a certain class rather than the most qualified individuals, everyone loses out, not least of which the intended beneficiaries. The obsessive focus on openly gay cabinet appointees risks further ghettoization of gays, as we are compelled to "support" whatever gay figure is foisted upon us by gay organizations irrespective of whether or not we agree with that person's political views.

Read the rest here.

--James Kirchick