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    Ann Rostow: But Who Knows Where or When?

    1-Ann-RostowBy Ann Rostow

    But Who Knows Where or When?

    Not too long ago (but just long enough for me to forget the details) I read an excellent essay urging GLBT journalists and others to resist the urge to go ballistic over legislative proposals that had absolutely zero chance of passage. Hey, I too am sick of absurd headlines announcing that some state is on the verge of reinstating sodomy laws or putting gay men in quarantine. I’m making up those examples, but you know what I mean. We have enough challenges without wasting our energy fighting straw men.

    So I’ve been rolling my eyes and ignoring much of the nonsense that is passing for fringe right legislative rhetoric these days and that includes a proposal in my own home state of Texas to bar the use of taxpayer money for issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Lately, however, I’m starting to wonder if perhaps I’m being just a little too complacent in ignoring the crazy talk.

    For the record, the Texas “Preservation of Sovereignty and Marriage Act” is doomed, not because it’s ridiculous, but because it takes money away from Texas counties by giving the Secretary of State control over all marriage licensing. And true, it most likely would not pass under any circumstances, and if it did, it would be struck by courts. But considering the dozens and dozens of antigay measures under review by desperate conservative state legislatures around the country, isn’t it possible that something somewhere might stick to the wall?

    I’m starting to think the answer to that might actually be yes, but I couldn’t tell you what or where that would be. This leaves me torn about actually reporting on the various red-state sideshows.

    On the one hand, I agree that it’s poor journalism to write breathlessly about sensational measures that will never see the light of day. Decent journalism requires the delivery, not just of accuracy, but also of context and perspective. On the other hand, if something insidious did survive the lawmaking process and go on to survive judicial review, I’d be remiss in having bypassed its evolution.

    The solution, of course, is to write an item like this one, and then proceed to, um, roll my eyes and ignore the nonsense. Because really, it’s not going to happen.

    Much Ado About Something

    We can all ignore the nonsense, yes, but we can’t ignore the so-called religious freedom acts. As you all know, Indiana passed a dangerous “Religious Freedom Restoration Act” (RFRA) into law last month, but was forced essentially to retract and revise the legislation due to an unexpected roar of outrage from corporations and leaders around the country.

    The backlash against Indiana caught everyone off guard. I’d venture to say that even our community was surprised at the breadth and intensity of the protests. On the heels of the Indianapo-mess, lawmakers in Arkansas were convinced to revise their proposed RFRA with the more innocuous language that is already in force in some 20 states.

    Basically, the more acceptable versions of RFRA protect religious individuals against government intrusion, while the unacceptable ones allow a faith-based free-for-all; where religious belief can be used as an excuse to discriminate; where in addition to objecting to a government trespass against your faith, you can confront a gay man or lesbian who somehow forces you to violate your religion.

    Some people were wary of the original RFRAs; a federal RFRA was passed in the early 1990s, and state versions followed due to jurisdictional limitations of the federal version. But with some exceptions, the existing RFRAs have not been used as a weapon against the GLBT community, although that potential exists.

    This is just to say that there’s no reason to be giddy about new state RFRAs of any sort, even the ones that we’re calling “more innocuous.” Meanwhile, there are surely efforts underway to enact or “enhance” RFRAs without drawing the wrath of major employers or large community groups.

    Finally, what if states just go ahead and pass bad RFRA bills and let the chips fall where they may? It was one thing for the country to rise up against poor old Indiana. Could our allies sustain a series of protests against several states at once?

    In other words, the fight is far from over.

    Columnists Just Want to Have Fun

    It feels as if it’s been a long time since I wrote about anything really fun. I mean, of course marriage equality is a lovely topic, but is it fun? No. It’s a waiting game, now. A matter of days until oral arguments (on Tuesday, April 28) and another two months until D-Day. By the way, am I the only one wondering whether or not the Fifth Circuit is just going to sit on its hands until the Supreme Court rules? The ultra-conservative swamp court heard oral arguments on marriage cases out of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi back in January, and some observers speculated at the time that the panel might split 2–1 in our favor.

    Did you know that Marilyn Monroe had six toes on her left foot? For some reason I’ve ended up on a list that sends me “interesting” facts on a daily basis. Actually, I’ve ended up on countless lists and I am obliged to delete hundreds of emails every day. So why not change addresses, you ask? I have three reasons. First, I fear that there’s someone or something I’ll miss. Second, I like the fact that my name (arostow) is my email address, rather than something incomprehensible or cute. (My cousin Alexia owns the gmail version of arostow, and I don’t like Yahoo.) Finally, I believe that even though AOL is out of style today, it will one day become the most chic email address.

    So, I have a couple of federal cases on my list this week. The California transgender woman who is trying to get sex reassignment surgery in prison. A boy and his parents who apparently are dying to get back into conversion therapy in New Jersey, where such therapy is against the law. I’ve got a trans discrimination victory from the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. President Obama is being nice to us, as is his wont. And Hillary included two gay guys in her announcement video.

    All very important, I’m sure, but where’s the fun?

    And to answer my own question, just when I’d given up, I found the fun through a fluke on my browser that frequently sends me to a website called “gaystarnews” whenever I’m searching for gay news in general.

    It did so just now and here are a few of the headlines that popped up:

    “UKIP opens up office right next to gay fetish club and sauna.” (Fetish club? I love it!)

    “This man threatened to kill everybody in a gay bar with deadly anthrax.” (As opposed to the anthrax that can go in spaghetti sauce?)

    “Pokemon turned kids gay, church claims.” (Naughty Pokemon!)

    “Romanian TV star: ‘LGBTI people are ‘abnormal and a threat to family values.’”

    I could go on, but that’s enough for now. Gaystarnews is one of the top five LGBTI websites in the world, I read here on their website. And why not? The Romanian TV star, by the way, is a female judge on “Romania’s Got Talent,” who said some very mean things about us. I was looking for her exact quotes when I paused to watch 10-year-old Alex Pirvu sing an off-key version of “I Did It My Way,” a surreal performance (and I don’t mean that as a complement) that nonetheless brought the audience to tears.

    I’m not normally in the habit of guffawing to myself at the expense of well-meaning, talented children, but I couldn’t help it. I was chagrined by my heartless reaction. I felt very much the ugly American, provincial in her inability to bridge cultural gaps, and yet you try it. Listen to young Alex for the entire four minutes. Watch the expressions of the jury, awestruck by the youngster’s prodigal talent. Check out the backdrops and the fake cloud effect. Then, and only then, can you judge me.

    Small (Screen) World

    Let’s see now. I gather that HBO cancelled Looking, the pointless gay male TV drama about a bunch of gay men who live in San Francisco and don’t do much of anything. I watched maybe four episodes, with mild interest (and I can’t emphasize the word “mild” strongly enough). Personally, I was never that interested in The L Word either. Back in the day, the mere presence of a gay or lesbian character was enough to earn a “must see” rating in our eager little community. But these days a show has to deliver something more. I suppose we all have to watch Cucumber and Banana on Logo before passing judgment on these British imports.

    By the way, I was checking Cucumber on Google and I learned that Hendrick’s Gin is about to launch a dirigible shaped like a cucumber, which will take passengers on rides in several American cities this summer, including San Francisco and Austin! We can all go on the blimp, hopefully with gin and tonic in hand.

    Back on the subject of television, I guess Ellen is involved behind the scenes with the new NBC sitcom One Big Happy, a show about a lesbian who has a kid with her straight male best friend who then finds a girlfriend. Haven’t seen it, but will check it out. It got tepid reviews.

    Part of the problem is that I feel overrun by television. Mel and I tape The Good Wife, Madame Secretary, Masterpiece Whatever It Might Be, Something About Midwives, Grey’s Anatomy, Battle Creek, American Crime, The British Detective in Beach Community Show, and the list goes on. Plus, we dutifully watched House of Cards, which was not as interesting as in previous seasons.

    I’m not sure how we reached the point of recording all these shows, and I feel very guilty about deleting them unwatched, but much as we must sometimes discard the wilted lettuce in the bottom bin, so we must bring ourselves to say goodbye to much of last month’s selections sans vu. One of the new shows that we’ll never stop watching is the phenomenal Empire.   I had an extra five hundred words, I’d sing its praises.

    Oh. Lastly, is it true that bisexual private eye Kalinda Sharma will be leaving The Good Wife after the current season? Say it ain’t so! Wonder if she’ll be killed by the enigmatic drug kingpin?

    Not That There’s Anything Wrong with That

    We have a fairly conservative state lawmaker in Florida to thank for the fact that new adoption policies will not include a “conscience clause,” designed to allow religious and other adoption groups to shut the doors on gay parents. GOP state senator Don Gaetz delivered a convincing denunciation of the proposed clause on the senate floor April 8, leading to a voice vote against the amendment.

    Later, Gaetz told Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern that the clause could have been used to discriminate against all sorts of parents, including mixed race families. As for gay rights, Gaetz told Stern that he has not “typically” been involved in gay issues, but that gay rights became part of the debate and his main concern was increasing the supply of adoptive homes.

    Finally, I have learned from past columns that many of you do not follow professional golf, for some reason, and are therefore indifferent to my trenchant observations from the fairways. Bear with me please.

    Mel and I were delirious with joy as our favorite golfer, ex-longhorn Jordan Spieth, won the Masters. But we were nauseated by the commentators’ repetitive, fawning adulation for “Gentle Ben” Crenshaw, an underperforming ex-champion who, among other things, pulled his middle school daughters out of a private school in Austin several years ago because the heroic school refused to remove Annie Prouix’s prize winning short story, “Brokeback Mountain,” from the final semester senior English curriculum.

    Not only does Crenshaw believe gays and lesbians are perverted, but also there’s nothing “gentle” about him. He was known for his temper on the course and as an added tidbit (warning, unsubstantiated allegation ahead) his ex-wife says he used to do lines of cocaine to get going in the morning. At any rate, it was Crenshaw’s last “competitive” round at the Masters (if you call 20 over par “competitive”) so he got tons of sappy and irritating attention.

    arostow@aol.com