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    Ann Rostow: Double Trouble for Second City’s Gay Cat

    By Ann Rostow–

    Double Trouble for Second City’s Gay Cat

    On Monday, June 7, I strolled into the SCOTUSblog livestream to await the 10 am release of High Court opinions. Surely our long-awaited ruling in Fulton v City of Philadelphia will be handed down today, I thought wrongly. It was argued in early November, for God’s sake. I know it’s a difficult case—although it shouldn’t be—but still, we only have two weeks left in the session. If not now, when? 

    (Um, maybe any one of the several remaining announcement dates?)

    The result, whether for good or for ill, will have a major impact on our community’s legal posture going forward, ergo, when it eventually appears, my column will basically write itself. This week would have been convenient timing for such a scenario since I’m here in Connecticut visiting my adorable grandchildren and their lovely parents so I’m distracted. And plus, I don’t see a whole hell of a lot of other stuff to write about. No scandals, no political shenanigans, or discrimination lawsuits. No crazed lesbians running amok forcing their partners to drive them down the M5 at knife-point. 

    No, it’s all anti-trans lawmakers, Pride this, Pride that, and things happening overseas where we’ll probably never set foot again thanks to mutant strains of Covid that will break through our vaccine defenses and kill us all before we have a chance to book our tickets to paradise. So, it seems I might have no choice but to rely on random subjects with no particular connection to our shared struggle for equality and human rights. 

    Then, to my horror, I checked my last column and noticed that it too was filled with inane anecdotes that had nothing to do with gay law or politics, like the story about the cat who jumped out of the fifth floor Chicago apartment or the one about the calico lobster rescued from a Virginia restaurant. Is it possible that I will now have to offer my readers two intellectually lightweight efforts in a row?

    Not only is it possible, but it is happening. And to kick it off, I’d like to report that the cat who jumped out of the Chicago apartment in mid-May, “Hennessy,” was an indoor feline who was escaping a fire. Hennessy was seen on video landing safely in a bush and running off, but as far as I can tell this cat has never been seen again. Someone else out there with time to burn, please dig a little deeper and find out if Hennessy ever returned home. If not, this feel-good news item (“Miracle Cat Survives Hundred Foot Fall”) is going to turn very dark, very fast. (Lost On Chicago’s Mean Streets, Pet Cat Fades From Headlines.) Maybe Hennessy was gay or bi or questioning. If so, we’re back on topic.

    What Does Winning Look Like?

    You know, of course, why we’re all waiting anxiously for Fulton v City of Philadelphia. The GLBT battle of this decade will be the fight over religious “freedom” versus gay and trans civil rights, and I use the word freedom advisedly because nobody is actually preventing Jane or Joe Christian from going to church or believing in the resurrection. They are trying to prevent said Christians from running a public business or organization that illegally discriminates on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. 

    No one would allow a proprietor to insist that their faith requires racist business practices based on, I don’t know, the “Curse of Ham” or something. Yet the exact same principle is at stake in the Philadelphia foster care case and all those bakery and florist cases that we see down the line. Tell me, why should race-based civil rights laws (rightly) be sacrosanct, while gay-based laws are optional to people of so-called faith? 

    I won’t belabor the point, I’m just anxious to see what transpires and particularly interested to see what Amy Coney Barrett does with her first GLBT decision.

    Meanwhile, there’s a big new book out on my favorite subject, marriage equality, called The Engagement: America’s Quarter-Century Struggle Over Same-Sex Marriage, by Sasha Issenberg. I think it’s 900 pages, so no, I haven’t read it yet.

    Writing in the Washington Post, Issenberg argues that marriage equality was a relatively easy civil rights lift because giving marriage rights to gay couples didn’t take anything away from other people. And unlike the conflicts over abortion or even race, once the matter was settled by the High Court, the subject was more or less closed. The sky did not fall, as marriage attorney Evan Wolfson put it, and life went on.

    “Ultimately,” wrote Issemberg, marriage equality “doesn’t create any losers, which may be one reason those who lost the battle over marriage rights have flocked to religious-liberty cases championing people who claim that being forced to acknowledge the change in law violates their beliefs. In cake bakers and foster-care agencies, gay-marriage opponents finally found people who felt they had something to lose.”

    I would agree were it not for the fact that Monday morning legal analysis is just as tempting and erroneous as replaying the proverbial football game from Sunday afternoon. Marriage equality is profoundly in line with deep social values of family, love, commitment, and respect. Abortion, by contrast, is disliked by all of us, including those who support a woman’s right to choose how to conduct her pregnancy. 

    No one “likes” abortion. Quite aside from any religious thoughts on the matter, the practice terminates what would otherwise likely become a specific individual. The question is not whether abortion is good or bad, the question is who makes the hard decision whether to have an unplanned child, the mother or some religious mucky mucks? 

    It’s no wonder this fraught social issue continues to plague us, yet those who oppose abortion rights don’t have any more “to lose” than those who opposed marriage equality. No one is forcing them to have abortions; they are only disturbed by their own judgments much as antigay activists felt the same. Again, it’s because marriage equality is a sweet lovely dream while abortion is a sad necessity that the former is more or less settled law and the latter continues to rile our society. 

    Get That Child Off My Bridge

    What else is new? Do you remember Wil Wheaton from Star Trek Next Generation? I hated the obnoxious Wesley Crusher, but grew to admire the actor Wheaton, who has dined out on his precocious teenaged character for several decades. While Wheaton is straight, there was something a little gay about Wesley, particularly when he wore those super swishy sweaters. 

    “Over the years, I’ve met several men who have told me that their childhood crush on Wesley Crusher was a big part of them coming out and living their lives with joy and love and pride,” Wheaton wrote recently. “I cannot even begin to tell you how much this means to me. I love it so much that I, and some of my work, were there for people … who needed a safe place.” 

    I know I’m only writing to a select few of you now, those that watched Star Trek Next Generation. But I have to wonder which of you guys out there actually saw know-it-all Wesley as crush-worthy. Really? That said, I applaud Wheaton for his generous outreach for Pride. Come sit in the captain’s chair, Wil.

    Lake Woah Be Gone

    Let’s see. You probably saw the video of the motorboat that was flying the rainbow colors out on a lake somewhere in Washington state. Another boat circled around them five or six times, yelling antigay things and giving them the finger. A few minutes later, the mean boat left, burst into flames for reasons unclear, started to sink, and the gay boat had to rescue all the unpleasant people from the mean boat.

    Usually, I would actually check a few things out before reporting this incident. I only saw the gay side of the story in a video. Was the other boat antigay? Or was there a secondary altercation on the water that had nothing to do with sexual orientation? Who shot the finger, and was it actually sent as a homophobic gesture? What did the crew of the burning boat say when they were rescued? Did these people know each other beforehand?

    That’s just to say that I have not checked any of this out, but the story is so neat and moralistic that I send it along without further research. I will also note that someone close to me who will remain nameless suggested that the burning boat people should have been left to swim ashore. I disagreed. (Did I really marry this person?)

    Cookie Monsters Unite

    Do you recall from earlier in this column that, in theory, I could be discussing anti-transgender state lawmakers, Pride news, and a range of international GLBT subjects? That’s true, but for one thing, I’ve lost track of the anti-transgender state laws. All I know now is that this session is the worst in many years for our community and that transgender Americans, specifically transgender women and girls, are getting the worst of it. Sasha Issenberg is correct that the antigay right has ceded the battle for marriage equality. But they are all in when it comes to transgender kids and antigay bakeries. 

    Basically, they’re looking for any simplistic cultural trigger on which to fundraise. The country is now filled with happy gay and lesbian married couples who don’t seem that different from anyone else. So instead, let’s raise the alarm on men in ladies’ bathrooms, boys dominating girls’ sports teams, or devout Christians forced to celebrate gay sex. You get the picture.

    As for Pride, some of it is still virtual, but I don’t feel like determining what’s happening where. I’ve already complained about the politically correct New York Pride organizers who have disinvited the gay and lesbian police group from marching in the parade. Ridiculous and counter-productive. I won’t repeat myself.

    There are also several Pride-related stories just because it’s June. For example, there’s a bakery in Lufkin, Texas, that created a little rainbow Pride cookie. “Confections” bakery drew a far-right backlash after posting photos of the cookies and writing: “More LOVE. Less hate. Happy Pride to all our LGBTQ friends! All lovers of cookies and happiness are welcome here.” 

    In their next post, the bakers said they had lost an order for five dozen cookies that they had just finished icing, and that they had received angry feedback. And you can guess the happy ending, right? Orders came in from all over the country and Confections had a line around the block of customers showing their solidarity. The entire store was quickly sold out and donations flowed in from other contributors. It’s the classic Pride season story, and the moral is: for every one of Them, there are ten of Us, “Us” being our community and our allies.

    A Prayer for Meridian

    And speaking of a ten-to-one ratio of friend versus foe, I enjoyed the video of a recent ex-gay “rally” in Washington, D.C., the other Saturday, because it looked as if there were about a dozen people in attendance. “Join our diverse group of former LGBTQ individuals in worshipping, sharing our testimonies, and celebrating freedom in Christ publicly on the Mall in Washington,” urged something called the “Changed Movement” in an Instagram post. Well, good luck with that, everyone.

    And in other antigay religious news, you’ll be pleased to hear that the Family Policy Alliance has sent around a prayer so that all of our loving, but disapproving, straight friends and family can bow their heads on our behalf. Called “A Prayer for our LGBT Neighbors,” the group hopes that we can spontaneously reject our own faiths and identities and embrace the alternatives they are proposing.

    “As Christians, we are saddened by the celebrations of this month, because not only do we know that Pride Month is a celebration of sin, but we also know that we will never be free until we find our identity, salvation, and hope in Jesus Christ,” the group warns piously. 

    In Pride month, they pray that “our hearts are heavy for those who identify as LGBT. Your Word is clear about both sin and salvation—and our own consciences testify to this truth—yet so many live with the hope that they will find their ‘true self’ or even their worldly salvation in a broken identity.” It goes on in that vein, until we reach a childish scrawl signed: “Meridian.”

    You know what, Meridian? In the spirit of Pride month, we pray back at you. Here’s hoping that your Christian faith, or whatever, opens your heart to other people who don’t think exactly like you, and gives them a little credit. Amen.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on June 10, 2021