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    Ann Rostow: Dear Virginia, There Is A Santa Clause

    Dear Virginia, There Is A Santa Clause

    My dearest readers. We are getting so close to marriage equality we can taste it. It tastes like dark chocolate and almonds. Or maybe like an ice cold beer on a hot day or a lobster roll with a glass of dry white wine while sitting by the ocean at a little outdoor table with an umbrella. Since we last communed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit has issued yet another marriage victory in the Oklahoma case. And more importantly, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has given us a 2-1 win in the Virginia marriage case, ruling that marriage is a fundamental right that applies to same-sex couples.

    By the way, let me digress. The expression “fundamental right” is a legal term, referring to a limited number of rights that are protected under the Due Process Clause. These include marriage, the right to vote, parenting rights, and several others that are steeped in history and without which the concept of liberty would be meaningless. Note that when a fundamental right is in question, courts use the most exacting scrutiny to evaluate the case.

    At any rate, I don’t know how many times I’ve been reading the comments about one of these appellate victories, and I’ll find someone who protests: “Since when is marriage a fundamental right?” Or “there’s no right to marriage in the Constitution!” But hello, Mr. Moron! Marriage has been characterized as a fundamental right in over a half dozen major Supreme Court cases as well as many other lesser opinions. Even our archest enemies acknowledge that marriage is a fundamental right, although they then proceed to argue that “same sex marriage” is a contradiction in terms that should not fall under the M-word to begin with.

    Moving on, here’s the interesting thing. Both the Tenth Circuit opinion and the Fourth Circuit opinion are going to be appealed directly to the Supreme Court. This means that we won’t have to drag our heels through a year or so of review by the full circuit courts. Instead, we’ll go straight to the top dogs in Washington, who will no doubt accept one or both of these cases for their 2014/2015 session.

    Meanwhile, we have another big appellate court showdown this week. As you may know, we have won every federal and state court marriage case over the last 13 months or so, but I have to say, this week’s involves sailing through troubled waters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is hearing arguments on several cases emerging from Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee. The panel assigned to these marriage suits includes two George W. Bush appointees and one Clinton pick.

    Now, we never like to make assumptions based on politics alone. But these are fairly conservative judges, and it is quite possible that our run of victories could come to an end in the Sixth Circuit. Many legal analysts will be keeping a close eye on the oral arguments in an effort to glean insights into the mindset of the two Bush judges, so by the time you read this column, there should be quite a few articles on line. Check them out!

    Cabin Fever

    In addition to Virginia, the Fourth Circuit covers the Carolinas, plus West Virginia and Maryland. Now, Roy Cooper, the North Carolina Attorney General, has announced that his office will no longer defend the Tobacco State antigay marriage laws, and in fact will urge the district court judge in his state’s case to rule in favor of marriage equality. Cooper told a press conference that the legal issues were decided, and that continuing the case would be an exercise in futility.

    Cooper’s South Carolina counterpart, Alan Wilson, has gone the other way, vowing to keep on fighting for traditional marriage. His only hope, however, is that the High Court will definitively rule against same-sex couples and give states the right not only to ban in state weddings, but also to ban recognition of out of state marriages as well. Somehow, I don’t believe that’s going to happen, do you?

    Meanwhile, two more state judges in Florida have recently struck the Hurricane State’s antigay amendment making three Florida rulings in our favor, all put on hold. Oh, and here’s some good news. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit has rescheduled oral arguments in the Indiana and Wisconsin cases. It will hear both appeals on August 26, and the court has declined a motion to put the cases before the full appellate bench. That’s good for us, because the full Seventh Circuit runs red. Actually, since we don’t know the composition of the three-judge panel, we can’t speculate. But we have a chance.

    I’m sure there’s much more marriage news. Indeed, I see here from my list that everyone is expecting the federal case against Arizona to pop into the headlines shortly. But I think we’ve covered the subject enough for today. By the way, I am writing to you from the North Fork of Long Island, the anti-Hamptons if you will, filled with fresh corn, delicious local wines and plenty of steamer clams. Everyone is about to head for the beach, but I will remain in this cute little cabin where I will devote myself to your edification. You’re welcome.

    Games Gays Play

    So, you should know that the Uganda Supreme Court, or whatever it’s called, has struck the country’s new antigay law, which is nice. Unfortunately, they did so on a technicality since the law was passed without a quorum in the legislature. In theory, it could rise from the dead, so don’t go booking passage to the Bwindi Impenetrable Forest just yet. Oh, I see here it’s called the Constitutional Court, so there you go.

    And guess what! The Gay Games are about to start in Cleveland. I’ve always had a bee in my bonnet about the Gay Games, which feel like an anachronism. The whole point of sports is to pit yourself against the best, right? Would anyone want to watch the Gay Masters Tournament, or the Gay French Open? No! Plus, who cares if some middle-aged lesbian wins the silver medal for fencing in the over-50 bracket? The whole thing was set up as an alternative to the Olympics at a time when we were all shunned and sitting in a closet. So while we have not yet arrived at the promised land of full civil rights, we’ve certainly traveled beyond the need for a gay-only week of sports. (Editor’s Note: See pages 13–15 for an opposing view.)

    In other news bits, a gay bar in Denver has been nailed for discriminating against a customer in drag who was refused admittance. The Civil Rights division of the Ski State’s Department of Regulatory Agencies ruled that the Wrangler bar violated drag queen Vito Marzona’s right to public accommodation when they turned him away last summer. The bar claimed they did so because they could not verify his identification. But it seems that the Wrangler has a pattern of favoring butch bear clientele. Bad bar!

    Oh, and how about the new coffee table book that will feature gay men’s artistic renderings of vaginas? Two Oakland collaborators came up with the idea for Gay Men Draw Vaginas after a couple of their buddies made attempts to capture the elusive details on paper. Shannon O’Malley and Keith Wilson subsequently set up artist booths around the Bay Area, asking gay men to try their hand. The result will eventually evolve into a 220-page coffee table book, and from what it sounds like, a must for every sophisticated GLBT living room. The only problem will be raising the $37,000 publishing price via kickstarter. But if I know my community, I don’t think they’ll have much of a problem. This is exactly the kind of project that brings us all together.

    By The Numbers

    Here’s an interesting story. The Center for Disease Control’s National Health Interview Survey has announced that 1.6 percent of adults call themselves gay or lesbian; .7 percent say they’re bisexual, and 1.1 percent either don’t know or won’t answer. That leaves 96.6 percent in the heterosexual category. We are also more likely to smoke and drink, and gay men are more fit than straight men.The numbers are slightly lower than other surveys, which generally peg the GLB population at around 3.5 percent. But they’re not that far off base, particularly when you factor in some of the closet cases in the 96.6 percent. But what makes the story newsworthy is the reaction from the conservative press. All sorts of headlines seem to indicate that the GLB community is up in arms about the survey, and insisting that our numbers are higher. Further, the articles suggest that most Americans somehow think gays represent up to 25 percent of the population, and that we ourselves are promoting this misconception. Finally, some articles imply that the GLB community is not large enough to qualify for civil rights, and certainly not large enough to justify the attention that has been lavished on us in the last few years.

    In fact, no one’s up in arms, although some suggest the numbers might be a little low. Second, I have never seen any evidence that Americans assume one in four people are gay. Say what? I know our countrymen and women can be clueless at times. But not this clueless. And as for our status as a minority, does anyone think that anti-Semitism may be ignored because only 2.2 percent of Americans are Jewish? (I liked the take on this issue presented by Mark Joseph Stern in Slate.)

    Almost Beach Time

    What else shall we talk about? I read about a police chief in western Wisconsin who got so mad at a local Tea Party politician that he signed the guy up for a porn site, a gay dating site, and Obamacare. Campbell Police Chief Tim Kelemen will face 40 hours of community service plus some counseling for his misdemeanor offense, but his victim, Greg Luce, wanted him to lose his job. The two men were at odds over some Tea Party protests on an overpass that Chief Kelemen thought were dangerous. When the Chief convinced town leaders to ban protests on the bridge, Mr. Luce convinced his followers to bombard the police station with calls. Chief Kelemen then devised his mischievous computer hijinks and the rest is history.

    Are these really two grown men?

    Oh, and Luce is now filing a federal lawsuit, charging Kelemen with identity theft and a violation of his First Amendment rights, presumably the right to free speech while hanging over an interstate highway and distracting drivers.

    I know it’s not a gay news story, but there was the bit about the gay dating site. So…

    This is the moment when I can launch into a new topic, or merely sprinkle my final 150 words in a light dusting of random observations. The next topic on my list happens to be a Washington Post article about how evangelical gays are starting to embrace openly gay celibacy. As more and more people recognize the dangers of conversion therapy, these brave Christians are choosing to accept their sexual orientation, while keeping themselves chaste for Jesus. WTF?

    Look, they can do whatever they want, and be whoever they want to be. But there’s nothing courageous about announcing you’re gay and then swearing off sex and romantic relationships. It’s the whole Rick Perry gays-as-alcoholics metaphor, promoting the notion that our lives and marriages are inherently immoral and unhealthy. Sadly, we may have to accept ourselves, but that doesn’t mean we have to submit to temptation. Really? You want a pat on the back for that? Not from me.

    Hmmm. Looks like I finished with a topic after all

    arostow@aol.com