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Kagan + ENDA = Gay Rights Summer?

With Solicitor General Elena Kagan’s nomination to the Supreme Court, right-wingers have revived speculation that Obama's pick is a closeted lesbian, despite strong statements by the White House that such charges are false. “We cannot afford to have another sexually abnormal individual in a position of important civic responsibility,” blasted the American Family Association in a blog post Monday. But the Kagan whisper campaign is only the start of the gay rights debate that's certain to heat up this summer. And activists on both sides seem eager to drive the issue to the forefront.

Having vocally objected to the military “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” policy on gay service members, Kagan briefly restricted—but never cut off—military recruiters’ access to students while she was dean of Harvard Law School, prompting critics to label her as “an anti-military zealot” who would push for same-sex marriage “as a supposed federal constitutional right.” On the other side, gay rights groups have hailed Obama's pick, citing her DADT views and "commitment to protecting the liberty and equality of all Americans, including LGBT Americans,” in the words of the Human Rights Campaign. And liberal activists who've been frustrated with the White House's reluctance to repeal DADT could use the confirmation process as another chance to voice their grievances.

Meanwhile, there’s another issue coming down the pipeline that could also bring gay rights to the front burner this summer. The Employee Non-Discrimination Act—which would prohibit employers from discriminating on the basis of sexuality or gender identity—is currently before the House Education and Labor committee. Written by Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.), ENDA already has 202 co-sponsors, prompting gay rights advocates to push for a vote in the House as early as this month. The momentum behind the legislation has prompted anti-gay activists to slam the bill as “the Cross-dresser Protection Act,” as the Family Research Council calls it. Warning that the bill would let drag queens invade schools across the country, the Traditional Values Coalition has urged a newly formed group of the House’s most conservative Republicans to take up the issue. And TheWashington Times has already editorialized against the bill for subjecting “kids to weirdos,” arguing that it would make it impossible for parents remove their children from the classrooms of “she-male” teachers.