White House senior advisor Valerie Jarrett issued a public apology Thursday for off-handed comments she made earlier in the week that many in the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgendered (LGBT) community took offense to. In an interview Wednesday with the Washington Post, Jarrett referred to homosexuality 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," Jarrett said in a written statement.
In the interview, Jarrett was casually referencing a speech she delivered last week to the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, about teens who've committed suicide after being bullied about their sexual orientation. In praising one teenager's parents, Jarrett noted: "These are good people. They were aware that their son was gay. They embraced him, they loved him, they supported his lifestyle choice. But yet when he left the home and went to school, he was tortured by his classmates."
The LGBT blogosphere quickly condemned Jarrett's remarks, calling her choice of words an "outrage." Gay rights advocate Michael Petrelis, who believes a person's homosexual behavior is not learned, derided the "obnoxious phrase."
"Did she get her talking points from Tony Perkins and the Family Research Council? It's doubly offensive that (WaPo reporter John) Capehart makes no effort to point out how dangerous Jarrett's thinking is," he wrote.
Similarly, at the liberal blog site Daily Kos, one blogger writes that Jarrett's "lifestyle choice" comment "understandably angered" many in the LGBT community "because [being gay is] neither a lifestyle nor a choice."
"That framing is one that bigots use against us and Jarrett should not have said it even if she meant well," indiemcemopants writes. "I do think that the White House is uncomfortable discussing gay issues and they don't talk to enough gay groups to find out the best way to communicate their message to us."
In her apology Thursday, Jarrett says she simply "misspoke."
"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," she said. "Most of all, I hope this does not distract from the issue I was asked about -- the desperate, tragic decision by some young people who feel that their only recourse is to take their own lives because they are being bullied or harassed because they are gay, or because others believe they are gay. 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."
Earlier this week, a Federal Judge in Virginia ruled that the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy was unconstitutional and ordered all pending investigations involving the policy halted. The White House also said it would appeal a federal judge's ruling on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), giving the state of Massachusetts the right to authorize gay marriage.