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    Ann Rostow: A Brave Rat

    By Ann Rostow–

    A Brave Rat

    How will we start our column this week? Trump’s bizarre behavior? The insane debate? The start of the new Supreme Court session, featuring Justice Thomas’ latest attack on the 2015 marriage equality ruling?

    Or maybe the betting game that lets you pick which of several wild Alaskan bears will gain the most weight prior to hibernation? Hibernation is a concept that has always appealed to me. Weeks of deep sleep and relaxation. No responsibilities. A healthy stretch free of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and sugar without the chore of summoning up will power. And when it’s over, the darkness has lifted and spring is returning to the land! Birds are chirping and daffodils abound. The pale green buds color the trees. The soft breezes and the first sensations of the sun’s heat touch your skin. You are refreshed. All your hibernation weight has gone to fuel your winter survival. You’re fit and trim. Joe Biden is president.  

    Let’s see what else. 

    I also have taken note of a grotesque sounding attempt to package and sell used condoms. And in more animal news, I was touched by the hero African giant pouched rat, Magawa, who has won an award for his work sniffing out land mines in Cambodia. What a fine rat.

    But you know me. In a toss-up between the High Court, Magawa, and the bears, I have to start with the Court, where we now have a very, very small chance of delaying the Barrett confirmation. I have no doubt that Mitch McConnell will use every trick in the book to hold that vote, but with the Covid diagnosis of three GOP Senators, including two on the Judiciary Committee, there’s a fractal of light in what was a pitch-black vista.

    And what if the vote is delayed past the election, and Democrats post a large victory? Could that change the calculus in the lame duck session? Could statesmanship raise its long-buried head above the sand? 

    Perhaps, but at the very least, delaying the confirmation of Amy Barrett until after November 3 will prevent her from participating in the November 4 oral arguments on Fulton v City of Philadelphia, the next big GLBT case which will ask the justices whether or not Philadelphia has a right to insist that its foster care contractors do not discrimination against same-sex couples. That would be a start.

    Calm Down Everyone, The Court Won’t Overturn Marriage

    While we wait for McConnell and company, the eight-person Court is back in business, and my inbox is filled with alarming suggestions that the far-right majority is planning to reverse marriage equality, an absurd premise bolstered by a three-page antigay comment from Clarence Thomas, joined by Sam Alito. The pair were making a point about a petition from our old pal, Kim Davis, the former Kentucky county clerk who is still trying to litigate her right to simply ignore the High Court’s marriage equality ruling. The two men agreed with their six colleagues that the petition for review should be rejected. But they thought nonetheless that her faith-based right to give same-sex couples the middle finger in the course of conducting official duties was legitimate.

    “Obergefell,” Thomas wrote in reference to our 2015 marriage victory, “enables court and governments to brand religious adherents who believe that marriage is between one man and one woman as bigots, making their religious liberty concerns that much easier to dismiss.”

    In the Sixth Circuit ruling that went against Kim Davis, Thomas continued, “one member of the Sixth Circuit panel in this case described Davis’ sincerely held religious beliefs as ‘anti-homosexual animus.’” He writes as if such a description reflects absurd hyperbole, rather than simple truth. Just because the rationale may be assigned to “sincerely held religious beliefs,” doesn’t mean that it does not reflect “anti-homosexual animus,” the legal term for disliking gay men and women. 

    Indeed, the problem with creating a loophole to exempt antigay conservatives from civil rights laws is that their “animus” is almost always based on religion, or professed to be so. Ergo, when you allow “faith” to trump GLBT civil rights laws, those laws become meaningless. The High Court isn’t going to roll back Obergefell or stop marriage equality. But they are highly likely to drive a truck through civil rights protections, allowing bakers and candlestick makers and the Kim Davises of this world free rein to discriminate against gay and lesbian couples. 

    (Thanks again, Justice Kennedy, for issuing a useless murky ruling in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case and then retiring under Trump.)

    Pass the Imitrex

    I’m reading that gays and lesbians are more prone to migraines than straight people. Even people who described themselves as “mostly straight” had significantly more of these headaches, according to a UCSF survey of 10,000 people. That’s odd, don’t you think?

    And I assume you’ve heard about the clever hashtag gambit, launched by Star Trek veteran George Takei, in which gay men are posting romantic photos of themselves and their partners on Twitter under the rubric: “#Proudboys.” 

    The white supremacists were previously kicked off Twitter, which left them open to our naughty trickeration. They have been relegated to an app called Parler, where they are free to be as venomous as they please, and while many members of the group are furious, some of them, in turn, are insisting this doesn’t bother them at all because they’re not homophobic and they even have some gay adherents. 

    I’m not sure that’s true as a general rule; I’ve found that people who spend their energies spewing hatred for “the other” don’t differentiate much between this “other” or that “other.” That said, it wouldn’t surprise me if a subset of these brothers in bigotry embrace a kind of white, anti-Semitic fraternity that would welcome like-minded macho gay men with open arms—in every sense.

    I was just about to toss Poland into this GLBT news hodgepodge, but the situation appears so horrifying and chaotic that I’m having a hard time. Over 100 towns have declared themselves GLBT free zones, in violation of EU rules. And the far-right government makes the Trump administration look like the board of HRC. I was trying to figure out the details of their opposition to a proposed EU-wide domestic violence treaty, which they want to replace with a kitchen sink family values alternative, but it’s all too much. I simply have no room in my head for complicated bad news from foreign shores when I can’t keep up with our own daily disasters.

    What Just Happened? I Forget

    Speaking of migraine drugs, (I just researched “Imitrex” for my earlier headline), what is it with these lengthy pharmaceutical commercials that go on for minutes at a time, and seem to apply to the one person in five hundred who might be, let’s say, using a blood thinner and a cancer drug at the same time for some rare condition that might also be treated with a different cocktail of medications? They never end! Indeed, most of the ads are taken up with shots of people playing with kids and taking walks in the countryside while someone reviews dozens of side effects in a pleasant, unthreatening, voice. Is it really cost-effective to air these to a mass audience on cable? And do the makers of these products actually think we ourselves can convince our doctors to prescribe something we saw on television rather than continue with whatever the specialist recommended? 

    I know what you’re thinking. But we’re not Donald Trump, thank God.

    Speaking of Trump, one of the things that frustrates me the most is that huge stories are falling into the void of old news as we struggle to keep up with the latest bombshells. Trump said soldiers who die for their country are “losers.” Not only did he pay no taxes for years, but he has been burning through millions and has to repay several billion dollars in personal loans within a couple of years. We don’t know who holds those loans or what he will do in order to repay them.

    His former campaign chair was involuntarily hospitalized after drunkenly playing with guns and hitting his wife. That barely registered.

    The debate was one of the most astonishing evenings in the history of this country’s presidential politics. And now, dozens of people in his orbit have Covid, while he himself is running around the White House on a steroid high without a mask and pretending to have beaten the virus. 

    The only constant is the daily improvement in Biden’s margins that we observe on 538, where, as I write, Biden now wins 82 out of 100 election simulations, including 38 landslides. We’re also increasing our chances for taking over the Senate to 68 out of 100 simulations, with no help from our man in North Carolina, Cal Cunningham, who picked this moment to get caught sexting someone who is not his wife. Really, Cal? 

    Apres Lui, Le Deluge

    I shudder to imagine what will develop between now and my next deadline. Unlike some in my circle of friends, I have no desire to see Trump’s life hang in the balance. I don’t want him to engender sympathy. I certainly could not stomach the pomp and circumstances of a funeral for a sitting president and I don’t want Pence to step into the highest office and perhaps upset the election. 

    I want Trump to continue his present unhinged trajectory, shedding votes along with the virus until the only ones still cheering are the Proud Boys and the deplorables. I have the TV on mute with the captions on, but still, just this minute, I see that a number of Pentagon officials are quarantining, following the positive test of the number two at the Coast Guard, who earlier joined the top brass at meetings of the Joint Chiefs.  

    Who else will drop off the playing field in the next days and weeks? What further symptoms will Trump manifest? Will he really attend the second debate, which is just around the corner on October 15? He insists he will, but how is that possible?!

    What will happen at tomorrow’s Veep showdown? You know the answer to that by now, but it’s still in my future. Mel and I came up with a drinking game for the first debate, and we were well on our way to inebriation thanks to Biden’s repeated use of one of our target phrases: “Here’s the deal.” 

    But soon enough we just looked at each other and gave up, pouring a steady stream from a pitcher of vodka and grapefruit punch into our empty glasses until we finally turned off the insane barrage. This reminds me that I have to start working on my Harris-Pence drinking game, which will have to include: “Kamala Harris, for the people.”  

    A Good Note

    Finally, I’ve never followed major league soccer, but the story out of San Diego was the most hopeful thing I’ve encountered in many months. Winning 3–1 at halftime, the San Diego Loyal SC coach, Landon Donovan, tried in vain to get the ref to issue a red card to a player from the other team, Junior Flemings of Phoenix Rising, who called San Diego’s openly gay player Collin Martin a “batty boy,” which is an antigay Jamaican slur. 

    When the ref declined, the team forfeited the game in solidarity with Martin, losing their chance at the playoffs, an inspiring gesture of respect and sportsmanship. 

    “We made a vow to ourselves that we would not stand for bigotry, homophobic slurs, and things that don’t belong in our game,” Donovan explained. “Our guys said we will not stand for this and they were very clear in that moment that we are giving up all hopes of making the playoffs. They are beating one of the best teams in the league but they said it doesn’t matter and there are more things important in life and we have to stick up for what we believe in. They made the decision to walk off and I have tremendous pride in this group and I am really proud of this organization and that I get to be a part of it.” 

    Martin’s teammates put their arm around his shoulders as the Loyal left the field. Flemings denied using the slur, but he was overheard by multiple sources and it was picked up on a microphone. 

    So, there’s that. Thank you, San Diego Loyal, for lifting our spirits.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on October 8, 2020