Monday, May 31, 2010

Collateral damage

Andrew Sullivan has been writing about "closet" issues for long enough that some inconsistency in opinion is probably inevitable. But inconsistency over the space of this month is perhaps worth noting. Defending his questioning of whether Elena Kagan might be a lesbian --

But when every aspect of someone's life is for public view except for one, and when that one aspect is as pertinent to a person's life experience as ethnicity or gender or religion or family, then I am not required to uphold a double standard I do not share, and which, in fact, I find to be riddled with prejudice. So I feel it is completely defensible to ask the question and print the answer. That's all. No exposure of private matters; just honesty about public ones. No search and destroy mission into private affairs; just fair-minded clarity about public ones.

Now on the just resigned UK Chief Secretary to the Treasury, David Laws --

The way forward, it seems to me, is to ensure that when we are dealing with high level public figures - Treasury ministers, Supreme Court Justices, Cabinet members, et al - the gay question be no longer shrouded in discretion and ambiguity and taboo. As our society evolves, the closet will always remain an option for those too afraid or too conflicted or too uncomfortable to be open. But in public life, especially at its highest reaches, it has to end. And the press must stop enabling it, and start tackling it. Not out of personal vindictiveness and not out of cruelty. But because emotional and sexual orientation is a fact about people. In my view, public figures in national capacities need to be open about this or not seek high office.

The problem here is the circumstance of David Laws' outing. The Daily Telegraph is sticking to its deeply disengenuous position that it --

was not intending to disclose Mr Laws’s sexuality, but in a statement issued in response to questions from this newspaper, the minister chose to disclose this fact.

So they were merely going to report mysterious rent payments to a "partner" and leave it at that? And as everyone recognises, Laws' job was essentially Minister for expenditure cuts -- zero relevance to his sexual orientation. In other words, the Telegraph was precisely on the kind of search and destroy mission that Sully says he abhors. Sully likes to cite the excellent Matthew Parris every so often. Let's hope he reads the latest Parris column.

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