There were a few ways Obama aide Valerie Jarrett could have addressed the recently publicized series of gay suicides. Calling homosexuality a “lifestyle choice” should not have been one of them.
Jarrett, a senior advisor at the White House, spoke to Washington Post reporter Jonathan Capehart yesterday about the recent spate of teen suicides linked to bullying. In the interview, she praised the parents of Justin Aaberg, a Minnesota teenager who killed himself, for “doing a good job” supporting their son. However, a slip of the tongue (or bias) inserted Jarrett into a heated controversy:
These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay; they embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice. But when he left home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates.
Understandably, Jarrett has drawn harsh criticism over the subject. Blogger Michael Petrelis accused her of stealing “talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council,” an organization that has claimed (among other jewels) that gays are pedophiles, murderers, and responsible for the Columbine shootings. (Really.)
Jarrett, to her credit, has since retracted the statement, saying that she misspoke. In an email to Capehart, she said,
I meant no disrespect to the LGBT community, and I apologize to any who have taken offense at my poor choice of words. Sexual orientation and gender identity are not a choice, and anyone who knows me and my work over the years knows that I am a firm believer and supporter in the rights of LGBT Americans. We must instill in young people respect for one another, and we must set an example of mutual regard and civility to create an environment that is safe for every person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity.