I've been following the Kevin Jennings story here on TBP pretty closely, and it's not just because it's a blatant case of homophobia. The story is important because of it's political implications, yes, but also because of its social implications.
I was reminded of this study I read earlier this year on LGBT people in the UK that asked, interestingly enough, if there were certain jobs people would take or not take because of their identity:
Gay men in particular felt that there are some jobs they would not consider because of their sexual orientation (Figure 23). A third of lesbians felt the same way, as did 13 per cent of bisexual men and one in ten bisexual women. This view was also shared by many of those identifying as trans (36 per cent).
This is the sort of job discrimination that's impossible to directly address with the law, but is discrimination nonetheless. I'm operating on the assumption here that LGBT people in the UK aren't just making this stuff up, and, that if they're avoiding certain jobs, it's because they know homophobia and transphobia will go unaddressed there and it's better just to not have to deal with it in the first place.
The top three sectors that gay men avoided were labor, policing and the armed forces, and anything that involves children. While the first two can be attributed to their strict heteromasculinity (which results in sexual insecurity, which leads to homophobia), the third really can't. Teaching isn't culturally read as really butch. It's not a profession that attracts the rah-rah chest-thumping crowd.
The issue when it comes to education and gay people is the link to pedophilia, and homophobia bred by paranoia.
The study says:
When asked which jobs and careers they had avoided, the armed services, policing,
teaching, generally working with children and manual/blue-collar jobs were the most
frequently mentioned. The armed services, policing and manual blue-collar jobs were
widely perceived as having an inherent culture of masculinity and a poor image of
homophobic behaviour. Some felt that prevailing attitudes within these sectors were
anti-LGB, while in the case of the armed services, many said that specific policies
(past and present) had discouraged their interest.
Many respondents said they would avoid teaching or working with children and
young people because of the way some sections of society and the media view gay
and lesbian influences on children and young people.
The military gets the most attention here in the US because our ban on homosexuality is explicit. But, as I've said before, just getting rid of DADT or writing a specific law banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity isn't going to make things all better for LGBT people in the military. Something will still need to be done about harassment.
Teaching, though, is something that we don't hear much about anymore. The most famous homophobic ballot initiative, after Prop 8, was the Briggs Initiative from 1978, and followed similar laws to ban gay men and women from working in schools in other states. While it was ultimately defeated, the fact that it was even on the ballot in the first place kinda shows that this is a sore topic.
And a lot of queer people just don't feel like putting up with it. I've worked in lots of different jobs and places with children and teens, and I don't blame anyone else for not wanting to put up with it. I'm generally not out at many jobs I've had that involved kids, and, in the few times I did come out, I was fired pretty soon. (The notable exception was debate camp, but then again the director himself was one of the gayest guys I knew.)
So this Kevin Jennings story isn't just some fluke, it isn't just attacking a random Obama appointee since I'm sure there's actual dirt on other ones, and it isn't just about attacking a random gay person who works in the Obama Administration. To me, it's fairly obvious that it's about attacking the most prominent gay person working in the field of education, because homophobes think we're all predators.
It's a particularly insidious form of job discrimination, because there's no real way to prove discrimination when many LGBT people don't want to take a job in the first place when they know it'll just be trouble. And it prevents change from happening because kids never get used to having gay teachers (I never had an openly gay teacher until my sophomore year at college), thus perpetuating the association between queerness and pedophilia.