Someone uttering that phrase should set off alarm bells, especially if that someone is a politician. It almost always translates to “I know you all see what I did/said as homophobic, but really, it’s cool!” Rick Santorum’s oldest daughter is the latest to remark about her gay friends in a Huffington Post interview, and Dan Savage makes an excellent point:
What really interests me about the HuffPo interview, however, is Elizabeth’s claim to have gay friends. Elizabeth Santorum—follow her on Twitter@esantorum2012—has gay friends. Just like her father. And Rick Warren and Joel Osteen and Donny Osmond and Sarah Palin. All the high-profile homophobes seem to have gay friends. Or at least they claim to have gay friends. No one has ever met—and no reporter has ever asked to verify the existence of—one of Rick Santorum or Elizabeth Santorum or Rick Warren or Joel Osteen’s gay friends.
[...]Political reporters? When Elizabeth Santorum says, “I have gay friends and they support my dad because they agree with him about family issues,” i.e. her dad’s opposition to gay people having a families of their own, your immediate response should be a request for the names and phone numbers of some of these gay friends. Because that claim requires checking out before you put it in print or pixels. Reassure Elizabeth you’ll quote her friends anonymously to protect them from potty-mouthed gay bloggers, they can talk to you on background or whatever, but tell her that you’re going to need to verify the existence of these gay friends. Because you’re a journalist, not a stenographer. You’ll either catch Elizabeth Santorum in a revealing lie—what does it tell us about this moment in the struggle for LGBT equality that even homophobes like Elizabeth and her dad perceive a political risk in being perceived as homophobic?—or you’ll land a fascinating interview.
And while we’re at it, can the media please stop referring to politicians like Santorum as running on a platform of “family values”? How is it “family values” to refuse gay people the right to form families? Represent his platform for what it is – homophobia. Don’t accept the labels these bigots want you to use.