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    Ann Rostow: A Little Courage, Folks!

    annboxBy Ann Rostow

    A Little Courage, Folks!

    In the course of my deadline day procrastinations this morning, I read every word of my local paper, the Austin American Statesman, from an article bemoaning the departure of Kevin Durant to an interview with an expert in menstruation.

    (I remember listening idly to my mother explain that particular phenomenon when I was around ten—blah blah blah blah—and then I remember at the end of her monologue asking how long it would last—several days a month for the next four decades. Uh. Come again? I could not have been more horrified if she had told me I would be obliged to eat a mug of worms every day before breakfast for the rest of my life.)

    At any rate, as I slogged through the (physical) edition my eye was caught by the headline: “LGBT picnic cancelled following online threat.” Reading further, it turns out that some woman in Philadelphia noticed some social media posting that referred to a gay picnic near College Station, Texas, with the comment: “Lock and load. Time to get on the news.” The woman, who is straight, contacted authorities who contacted the picnic people who promptly canceled the entire event. Does that seem strange to you?

    Maybe it’s just Monday morning bravado on my part, but I would have told the authorities that we were going ahead with the picnic and suggest that law enforcement assign a couple of guards to the park. I’ve made light of the expression “don’t let the terrorists win” in the past, but honestly. This is what terrorists do. They kill a few people and get the rest of us to stay home and cancel picnics out of fear. The Pride Community Center leaders said they “couldn’t take the chance.” But, of course, they could have. This was a menacing post, that’s all it was.

    In other procrastinations, I watched some boaters save a baby raccoon from drowning and clicked on a link that said: “Jockey kicked in face by horse gets run over by ambulance.” Just something to make me feel better about myself. Yes, I have to write a column. On the other hand, I’m not in a body cast.

    And by the way, why couldn’t some whiz kid like Abby on NCIS figure out who posted that threat and send agents over to his house to check him out? (I have to assume it’s a guy, because terroristic threats, as a rule, are a guy thing.)

    Good Cops, Bad Cops

    Looks like a contingent from Black Lives Matter went overboard during Toronto Pride the other day. The group stopped the pride parade with a sit-down and issued a set of demands, all but one of them quite reasonable. Pride Toronto Director, Mathieu Chantelois, said he would be happy to sign off on pledges to diversify the Pride staff, hire more black transwomen and a half dozen other things, but the demand that raised eyebrows was BLM’s insistence that Pride evict the police parade float that usually joins this, and every other, gay pride parade on our shared continent.

    Just as we cannot stereotype Muslims or people of color, nor should we stereotype police, many of whom are gay, many of whom are selfless and heroic or maybe just regular people. I don’t know the percentage of police or other law enforcement types who are prone to abusive and/or murderous behaviors. But I do know it is not a majority. And I also know that members of that violent faction are not likely to be enjoying the solidarity of one of our pride parades. Those guys and gals in blue marching down Main Street waving rainbow flags and smiling? They are as much a part of the community of GLBTs and GLBT allies as anyone else.

    Further, and most importantly, our entire movement is one of inclusion, not exclusion.

    When No News Is Excellent News

    I have a lot of GLBT legal news for our communal delectation this week. But one case seems most significant, even though it had no direct gay connection. As June came to an end, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case of a Washington State pharmacy, bent out of shape by a 2007 state law that forced them to carry the morning after pill in violation of their religious opposition to contraception. By ducking the case, the justices left intact a Ninth Circuit decision in favor of Washington’s policy, and it looks like they flashed a red light to others who suggest that personal faith should trump generally applicable state statutes.

    Hey, this is good news, everyone! And to illustrate its significance, Justice Alito wrote a fairly lengthy dissent, joined by Roberts and Thomas. “If this is a sign of how religious liberty claims will be treated in the years ahead,” he warned, “those who value religious freedom have cause for great concern.”

    High Court watchers are aware that most rejected cases get a one-liner for the record, so when justices take the time to issue pages and pages of commentary, you know they are molto pissed off. Further, since it takes just four justices to accept a case, what we have here is yet another illustration of the impact of Scalia’s death. We also have additional confirmation that our champion, swing voter Anthony Kennedy, has indeed moved leftward and seemingly swings our way more often than not. Witness the 4–3 vote in favor of affirmative action (with Kagan recused), and the Texas abortion case, where Kennedy joined the 5–3 majority that struck the restrictive Lone Star law.

    I have to note here that Donald Trump denounced the abortion ruling, insisting that if he had been President and had been allowed to name a replacement for Scalia, “you wouldn’t have had that OK? It would have been the opposite.” Um, no. Even in the topsy-turvy world of President Trump, Texas would still have lost 5–4 instead of 5–3. Not only was Trump unaware of the actual vote count, but he alarmed Christian conservatives by waiting three days to comment on the decision—almost as if he didn’t care about it one way or another!

    Where Was the Beef?

    I’m watching people react to news that Clinton will not face criminal charges for mishandling email, and I’m wondering, not for the first time, exactly what most observers think this incident was all about. The only question to be resolved was whether Clinton deliberately mishandled classified information. That was it! Not only was there very little classified information on her server, but there was no evidence she deliberately messed around with it, and it’s likely none of it was marked classified to begin with.

    Was email missing? Nothing that couldn’t be located on other accounts, since she sent most of her mail to government recipients. Did she release her personal emails? No, and why should she?

    Do people think she was hiding a secret of some sort that she had been emailing around to various people and that had to be “deleted?” It’s hard to tell what crime her opponents think she may have committed other than an ambiguous “crime” of compromising national security, which didn’t happen to begin with. And yet here is Paul Ryan of all people, announcing that the FBI’s decision “defies explanation,” and “no one should be above the law.” No one is above the law, and the FBI clearly has a good explanation for its no-bill. I’d expect this hyperbole from Donald Trump, but Paul Ryan is sounding kookier by the week.

    This Time There Really Is a Wolf Out There

    I’m becoming particularly protective of Hillary Clinton as the months and weeks until election day dissolve into summer lassitude. My mother was a professor of presidential politics who always advised me not to underestimate the American electorate. But the Republican primary was a shock. Those were American voters. And while they weren’t American, I certainly overestimated the Brexit voters. What the hell were they thinking?

    So forgive me if I resist the siren song of complacency.

    The composition of the High Court for a generation to come rests on this election. Yes, we always say that, don’t we? And it’s always almost true. Bush gave us two justices, Roberts and the odious Sam Alito. Obama came back with two of his own, Sotomayor and Kagan. But now we have a vacancy, and three more justices over the hill—Stephen Breyer pushing 80, Ginsburg and Kennedy already over that mark. This time, the warning is very real.

    And even though we won our big signature victory last summer, history may well see the marriage equality ruling less as a signature victory and more as a penultimate achievement. Everything we care about seems headed towards a High Court showdown.

    That ruling out of the Fourth Circuit in favor of transrights last March? The Virginia school district that lost has announced plans to appeal to the Supremes. Meanwhile, several other trans cases are now entering the federal court system thanks to the North Carolina debacle.

    The continuing fight over whether or not gay men and women are protected against workplace bias under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act? Surely headed to the Supreme Court within a couple of years.

    “Religious freedom” laws, like the one in Mississippi that was just struck down by a federal court? Also could be headed for the Supreme Court (although in this case we are still waiting to see if the state will appeal to the conservative Fifth Circuit).

    And how about the hapless pharmacy we mentioned earlier? How would a Trump-nominated Court receive a similar petition, perhaps one from a Christian wedding venue or bakery? You know exactly how that would go down.

    At the core of all these cases is the question of whether, unlike racism or religious bias, some LGBT discrimination is legitimate in a way. Perhaps there is a little bit of wrong in us. Just a touch. Just enough to say, you know what, Mr. Christian? We understand why you might not want these customers. They have the right to shop somewhere, but they can go shop down the street.

    It’s distressing in a way that such a profound question has yet to be definitively answered, not even by the Court that gave us our right to marry. But as long as it lingers, and as long as there are “two sides to the debate” about our fundamental equality as human beings, we will have work to do before the Court. That work will be a lot easier if Hillary Clinton wins this election. It will remain a tedious trek if she does not.