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10/14/2010

Valerie makes more welcome lifestyle choice

by Jeremy Hooper

Val-JarrettWhite House Senior Adviser Valerie Jarrett is apologizing for referring to homosexuality as a "lifestyle choice":

"In a recent interview I was asked about the recent tragedies about gay youth who have committed suicide, and I misspoke when I referred to someone's sexual identity as a 'lifestyle choice.' I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words."
Valerie Jarrett is no Tony Perkins [PostPartisan/WaPo]

Which is of course the right thing to do. The expected thing to do. And we accept it.

But here's the thing: "Lifestyle choice" is one of those phrases that shouldn't even be on the recesses of a supporter's tongue, much less the tip. So while it's good on Jarrett that she immediately mea culpa-ed the matter, we do have to wonder if maybe the Obama administration, as a collective, might want to carve out some time for a refresher course on LGBT people and their associated rights. Because casual heterosexism/homophobia is an oft-overlooked problem that in many ways affects policy matters more than overt hostility. Casual bias is the kind of thing that allows Presidents to see separate-and-unequal civil unions as good enough. That lets gay soldiers suffer for just a few more days. That continues to allow civil rights to be a two-sided, equally-merited conversation rather than a subjective, principled push forward. That lets something so outdated as "lifestyle choice" to escape from parted lips.

We're starting to see this administration as the good friend who has us over for dinner, toasts our love, plays with our kids -- but then asks us if we want to take our dessert to go, since they've heard we're required to hit up the bathhouse or recruitment center on a nightly basis. Not anti-gay by any stretch of the imagination: But still beholden to misinformation, and not versed enough to fully lead, to use their unique roles to clobber outdated stereotypes, or to see just how fully the LGBT rights fight is actually a human rights fight. We're more than willing to help -- we just need them to listen a little more closely!

**

*Sidenote: Interesting that Jonathan Capehart (or whoever wrote his headline) invokes Tony Perkins in the title of his piece, considering this is the same paper that just gave Tony Perkins a platform to peddle outright fallacy.

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