Feathered Bastard

The Gay Community and the Left's Persistent Delusions Regarding Janet Napolitano

Obviously, Sen. Larry Craig's private preferences did not make him a friend to the GLBT community. 

Regarding Arizona Governor and soon-to-be Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, some in the gay community seem outright delusional when it comes to her appointment. I wonder if they secretly think that because many consider Napolitano to be a closeted lesbian, her political advancement is somehow a positive thing for gays.

I would argue, as one sympathetic to the push for gay marriage and equal rights regardless of gender, that this is an inaccurate assumption. You need look no farther than Sen. Larry "I'm not gay" Craig for an extreme example. Before being busted for lewd behavior in a men's airport restroom, an incident that effectively ended his political career, his record on gay rights was what you'd expect from a reactionary, right-wing Republican Senator from Idaho.

Napolitano's no Larry Craig, but neither has she been the greatest supporter of gay rights, though Arizona gays have been overwhelmingly supportive of her. On the one hand, Napolitano, who has denied more than once the suggestion that she is herself closeted, did extend health benefits to domestic partners of state employees. But now that she's heading for DC, it's quite possible that this move will be undone by Governor-in-waiting Jan Brewer.

One might suggest that if Napolitano really cared about her fellow Arizonans, she would stay put, thus preventing the complete takeover of state government by the radical right wing, which already controls the state legislature.

The Governor also failed to campaign against Prop 102, Arizona's constitutional gay marriage ban, which passed in November. This, even though she is a Democrat, and putatively a progressive one. She's said previously she believes marriage should be between a man and a woman. And she claimed Prop 102 was not needed because gay marriage was already prevented by Arizona law. But this was a disingenuous argument -- one I attacked in a recent Bird column on the subject. It's also a stance that allowed Napolitano to avoid speaking out on the issue or otherwise spending any political capital on it.

Despite this history, columnist Robert DeKoven, writing for San Diego's Gay and Lesbian Times recently opined that Napolitano at Homeland Security would be a plus for the gay community. The piece is ironically titled, "Obama's cabinet another step out of the closet." Of Napolitano, DeKoven says the following:

"Napolitano, the current governor of Arizona, is supportive of gay rights and, as secretary of homeland security, can instruct her immigration staff to grant asylum to gay and lesbian refugees who flee persecution in their native countries.

"Former Attorney General Janet Reno initiated this concept, but right-wing immigration attorneys in the Bush administration argued to send GLBT people seeking asylum back to their countries of origin, as long as there were remote places where they could hide. (Imagine sending Jews back to Nazi Germany to live in the hills!)

"Napolitano will also have the power to remove the homophobic immigration judges DHS hired under Bush, and this will affect other areas of immigration law too. For instance, it will affect whether we can bring our spouses to the U.S., as straights can, without fear they will be sent back."

What Napolitano can do is usually far different than what she ends up doing. If she is closeted, and hoping to stay closeted so she can return to conservative Arizona one day and run for U.S. Senator, then this further constrains her ability to act freely. As with Prop 102, she will not do anything that might chip away at her overwhelming approval rating in Arizona, or reveal a sexuality that some older, conservative voters might find threatening.

So what I'm saying is, if the gay community suspects that Napolitano's supposedly cloaked sexual preferences are in some way a plus, they are woefully mistaken. The sad part is that Napolitano, even if she is as straight as a sign post or as asexual as an aphid, is no great friend to the GLBT community, or the Hispanic community, or the civil rights community in general.

Indeed, Napolitano's just barely a Democrat. To call her in any way a progressive or a liberal does a great a disservice to both ideological labels. And to believe that she will act as a progressive or a liberal would in the same circumstances is a fallacy that will inevitably lead, I'm afraid, to disappointment.