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    Ann Rostow: The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

    By Ann Rostow–

    The Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer

    It’s summertime, everyone. Pride festival, the longest days of the year, the onset of those timeless weeks of sun, salt, seafood and sensuality. Blue skies, the roar of the ocean, or maybe the cool hush of the forest, the grandeur of the mountains, the comfortable old cabin on the lake with the raft about a hundred meters offshore. Oh, what? The 20th century wants its idyllic imagery back? Sorry, here you go.

    I recall sitting at my desk in mid-June at my first real job, age 22 or 23, and realizing with horror that I would no longer have any part of the summer off. I’m not sure why that hadn’t occurred to me earlier, but the full impact of having to work all the time forever came as an unpleasant shock. 

    Well, that was a good four decades ago, so I seem to have survived the disappointment, but still, I can’t help but view the beginning of summer through a playful eye. Once, with a few years under my belt on one of my first actual business trips, I was traveling with an older colleague, a Frenchman in his 50s, and we were reading an article in the airline magazine that referred to the “lazy, hazy, crazy” days of summer in Amsterdam, where we were headed. This struck us as hilarious, for some reason, and during our subsequent meetings, we repeatedly used these adjectives, defying each other to keep a straight face.

    “Patrick, these projections seem crazy.” 

    “Hans, I’m a little hazy on our near-term strategy.” 

    And so on. 

    I bring this up because the rhyming triad has stuck with me all of this time, and even now it evokes not just the start of a season, but also the start of enjoying my career as an adult among other adults, and realizing that summer can be fun even if you have to work for a living. You can be lazy, crazy and hazy even from behind a desk. (I might add that the guys in our Amsterdam office began every meal with a shot of genever, a gin-like drink, even at lunch, so that helped.)

    Cake Case Tossed Back to Lower Court

    Part of the “lazy, hazy, crazy” approach to summer involves playing fast and loose with covering news of the GLBT community, wasting entire sections on irrelevant trips down memory lane. That’s for me, of course. Readers, feel free to apply this technique to your own individual professional contexts. 

    Meanwhile, like school children and professors, the justices of the Supreme Court are now poised to start their summer break, releasing their final opinions and adjourning until late September. We’re not waiting for any gay cases this term (although an upcoming ruling on whether the census will be allowed to track U.S. citizens is critical to all of our futures), but we did just see an interesting development earlier this month.

    On Monday, June 17, the justices sent one of those gay wedding cake cases back to the lower court, effectively declining review by telling the Oregon state appellate court to rehear the appeal of Melissa and Aaron Klein, bakers who refused to serve two lesbian brides and eventually were hit with a six figure fine for violating the Beaver state’s anti-discrimination law. 

    The Kleins were hoping that the Court would overturn their penalty, but more so, they wanted a definitive ruling on whether or not a Christian business owner could be forced to abide by local civil rights laws. This was one of the core issues that the justices ducked on a technicality in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case last year. And even though Justice Kennedy and his buddies refused to decide that or any other question, the Court still sent this case back to Oregon with instructions to take the Masterpiece ruling into account. 

    Again, since Masterpiece effectively said nothing about anything, this would seem to suggest that the Oregon court will once again rule against Melissa and Aaron Klein, much as the Washington Supreme Court recently ruled against a Christian florist for the second time earlier this month after her case was also sent back by the U.S. Supreme Court for review in light of Masterpiece. 

    Frankly, I don’t know what to make of this. The High Court justices are certainly aware that sending a case back to lower court for reconsideration based on a non-decision is a meaningless exercise. Ergo, I’m guessing this is a delaying tactic, signaling only that the Court is loath to burden the 2019/2020 term with yet another controversial GLBT case. As you know, they have already agreed to decide whether or not the workplace protections under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 cover sexual orientation or transgender status. I suppose they might think that that’s quite enough for one session.

    Breakthrough in Transgender Caselaw

    In another major legal story, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit just issued an important decision in one of the four federal challenges to Trump’s ban on transgender military service. You may recall that Trump banned transgender men and women from serving in a spontaneous July tweet two years ago. After lawsuits and backlash, Trump assigned Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “review” the policy, even though the Obama administration had concluded a lengthy RAND Corporation study on the same subject in 2016. 

    In 2017 and 2018, four federal courts put a hold on Trump’s nonsensical edict. But once Mattis produced a tricked-out version of the same policy, the government asked those same courts to lift their holds, arguing that the situation had fundamentally changed, thanks to the new language. The various courts basically dismissed the Mattis version of the trans-ban, but eventually the High Court ruled that the new policy was distinct enough from Trump’s original notions that it must be reassessed. 

    Back and forth we’ve gone, and back and forth we will likely continue to go as the transgender plaintiffs and their lawyers request government documents that the Trump administration refuses to provide. But amidst all of this, the Ninth Circuit has now ruled that transgender bias must be accorded heightened scrutiny by the courts, a term of art that applies to sex discrimination as well. Under this legal test, the government has the burden of proof to demonstrate that it has “exceedingly persuasive” reasons for singling out transgender men and women for disfavored treatment. That standard, which will now apply to all transgender cases throughout the nine states in the Ninth Circuit’s jurisdiction, will make it next to impossible to justify transgender discrimination.

    The Ninth Circuit’s ruling does send the case in question, a lawsuit out of Seattle, back to U.S. District Judge Marsha Pechman for further litigation, but it does so with very favorable instructions that will provide a powerful weapon to GLBT plaintiffs for the future. Pechman’s previous rulings had been extremely trans-friendly, but we can’t really complain about the way that they have been reviewed. After all, Judge Pechman’s decisions do not extend throughout the western United States. The Ninth Circuit’s decisions do, and they are almost as friendly as Pechman’s.  

    Mac and Cheese?  

    Who the hell is Joe Sestak? All I know is that he’s another middle-aged white guy with a few years in Congress on his resume who thinks he’s ready for the presidency. I guess we understood why some of these lookalike wannabes announced their candidacy last spring, but we’ve now got two dozen hats in the ring, and this guy decides to join the party now? The sheer arrogance of this nobody irritates me to no end. 

    Speaking of candidates, I know I’ve been highlighting Kirsten Gillibrand for her amusing antics along the campaign trail, palling around with drag queens and tending bar at a gay club. Now I have to give her another shout out for answering a question about favorite comfort foods that was posed to the contenders by The New York Times

    Warren liked chips and guacamole, Harris liked fries, Jay Inslee picked M&Ms, and the list went on. As for Gillibrand, her favorite comfort food was “whiskey.” You can see why her stock continues to rise in my eyes, even as I don’t see her as a Trump beater. Oh, and Julian Castro said “iced tea.” Really, Julian? That’s your “comfort food?” It’s one step up from tap water. 

    Speaking of the Democrats, Mel and I are taking care of two of our Connecticut-based grandchildren, Jasper and Teddy (8 and 6), so we are trying to figure out how we will watch the debates without causing anguish. Bedtime at nine pm has not been a popular suggestion thus far in our visit, so I’m thinking roofies. 

    I seem to recall being obliged to watch news on TV with my parents if I wanted to watch anything as a child. Yet Mel and I have seen Bolt, A Wrinkle in Time, Toy Story 4, Kung Fu Panda, Masha and the Bear, Peter Rabbit, something with a dolphin, and many others that I can’t remember. We have been inundated with kids’ programming, content to sip wine as our eyes glaze over rather than trigger a screaming fight over the remote. (Peter Rabbit was great, by the way.) At any rate, I’m not sure that our “debate nights” are going to be a big hit. 

    P.S. As I write, my poor wife has turned on something to do with Christopher Robin. That was the compromise that she found when she insisted, despite tears from Teddy, on turning off an animated series about Barbie. I’d watch with them, but suddenly I must work on this column, even though it’s not due for another day and a half. [Editor’s Note: Rostow did indeed submit this column early!]

    What Else Is News?

    I see that the Senate has confirmed yet another far right antigay judge to the federal bench, Mark Kacsmaryk, who has distinguished himself by being even more antigay and nasty than the rest of the Trump nominees. I’m so depressed by this parade of deplorables, if I may paraphrase Hillary, that I’m not sure what I can add. But it’s not just Trump; it’s the GOP Senate who deserve to go down in history en masse as a despicable collection of mindless cowards.

    In other news, a woman woke up in the middle of the night on an empty Air Canada plane somewhere on the tarmac of the Toronto airport after a flight from Quebec. She was freezing cold, and managed to call a friend before her cell phone died. The friend called someone else and she was rescued. I guess she will sue the airline, although I’d like to know the circumstances. How do you snooze through landing, deplaning and a few hours of further down time? Also, why was she freezing? I know it’s Toronto, but it’s late June; the night temperature is in the sixties. The woman says she has been terrified ever since the June 9 incident, which also seems like a stretch. Buck up, Lady. 

    I’m not sure where that last story came from, but I thought you ought to know. I also can tell you that the American Psychoanalytic Association has apologized for keeping us on its list of mentally deranged people, or whatever it was. I have the feeling that there are more than a handful of psychological or psychiatric associations that all go by the acronym “APA.” I may well be wrong. Whatever they call themselves, I trust they are all sorry for their short-sighted treatment of the GLBT community back in the day.

    And in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, Nat Werth—a gay valedictorian who was denied the chance to make a graduation speech once his school realized he planned to come out of the closet—was asked to speak at the local PrideFest. Very nice, guys. By the way, my top tipster cousin sent me a fascinating article about a study by the Yale School of Public Health that says 83 percent of GLBT people around the world are hiding their sexual orientation from the people closest to them. Even considering those parts of the world where being gay is a capital crime, I can hardly believe it.

    arostow@aol.com