Harriet Miers appointed my dear friend Don McCleary to the Dallas Board of Adjustment when she was a member of the Dallas City Council. Don was the managing partner of Gardere and Wynn, a prominent Dallas law firm at the time so it seems like an unremarkable appointment. Except that he was also an openly gay man, very involved in the local gay and lesbian political scene as well as serving as Co-Chair of the Board of the Human Rights Campaign.
Don died of AIDS in 1996. He kept his disease a secret for most of its tenure fearing that his hard work in ascending to the top tier of the Dallas legal community would go asunder if people knew the truth. His death broke our hearts but did not surprise us. The same can't be true for the Dallas elite. Yet Don's family and law partners honored his wish that the cause of AIDS be a prominent part of his obituary and his very large funeral service. And it caused a stir. As the Managing Partner of her law firm, Harriet Miers spoke out with support and said Don's partners did the right thing in telling the truth.
I tell this story because it says something about Harriet Miers. Something seemingly comforting. It is hard to imagine that just ten years ago - almost fifteen years after the AIDS crisis started - Don's life and death could be controversial. But it was in Dallas. When President Bush said he knows Harriet Miers character, perhaps it is because he has more stories like this. But stories are not enough comfort.
In my experience especially in this day and age, such moments of respect from conservatives for gay and lesbian people or compassion for people with AIDS is not that unusual. It frequently happens. It also frequently happens that those same conservatives tolerate or promote an unusual amount of discrimination against those same individuals they purport to support personally (read Dick and Lynne Cheney).
In a questionnaire she filled out during her run for the Dallas City Council, Miers expressed some support for gay civil rights but opposition to repeal of sodomy laws. In other words, you can be gay, but if you have sex you should still be arrested. Her answer presupposes that gay and lesbian lives can be divorced from politics or the law when the truth is that we have been nothing but a political and legal football for the religious right wing for so many years.
Nonetheless, she clearly didn't come across as anti-gay enough in the questionnaire. Why else would be we subjected to an overwhelming amount of news stories today and quotes from her old Texas friends about what a good true believing evangelical she really is and how any anti-gay advocates can rest assured that she is going to vote the "right" way on the court.
The issue isn't whether Harriet Miers likes gay people or believes that life begins at conception (as her friends are working hard to assure the wingers). The issue is whether the Constitution allows for a fundamental right to privacy for all citizens to act in these and other areas according to their own beliefs. Successive Supreme Court decisions have found that to be so. When did this discussion of ideology for a new Supreme Court appointment leave the grounds of fundamanetal American Constitutional principles?
It happened when, as George Will said this morning (yes I am quoting George Will) the President has reduced the Supreme Court to a private plaything useful for fulfilling whims on behalf of friends.
Since I am cynical enough to doubt that Senate hearings will shed much light on this complex woman, for now I am loathe to trust this friend.