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    Ann Rostow: Still in Kansas

    By Ann Rostow–

    Still in Kansas

    Because I’m still in Kansas, let me start off by telling you that the Democratic governor of the Sunflower State, Laura Kelly, vetoed the anti-trans sports bill that Republicans passed through the legislature the other day. Subsequently, the lawmakers failed to override her veto, sending at least one of these bad bills to the bilge bin. Kelly has previously vetoed some eight other pieces of nastiness, although some of them have been resurrected. Still, it shows that it pays to have a Democrat in (Your State Capitol Here).

    Speaking of which, let’s put our community solidarity on the shelf when it comes to supporting Caitlyn Jenner for governor of California. Really, Cait? Who else thinks they’re smart enough and experienced enough to manage the fifth largest economy in the world? Any celebrity chefs or pro golfers ready to make a run? I know it wasn’t a good look to dodge Covid rules for a luxury din din at the French Laundry, but I think it’s best we just forgive and forget. Let’s not throw the baby out with the bathwater. 

    And before we get into the meat of our column, I saw an item about two men living in University Heights, Ohio, who realized their rainbow flag was missing. Not again, I thought! Sometimes these stories come in bunches, and I had recently come across about three other rainbow flag incidents. 

    Sure enough, all the nice people in what Pink News described as a “quiet, friendly” neighborhood were preparing to raise their own Pride flags in a gesture of support for the stoic gay family when the guys discovered that a raccoon had taken the banner, shredded it, and was using it to make a nest. Problem solved, hate crime off the table, and everyone in University Heights can live happily ever after.

    To the Courts!

    Amid the run of nine anti-GLBT laws now signed by red state governors across the land (a huge increase over recent years) I did notice something slightly positive, to wit a measure that repeals the anti-gay language in Alabama’s 1992 sex education law. The thirty-year-old law said state programs should include “an emphasis, in a factual manner and from a public health perspective, that homosexuality is not a lifestyle acceptable to the general public and that homosexual conduct is a criminal offense under the laws of this state.” Governor Kay Ivey signed the repeal the other day, so that’s nice, I guess, (given that she previously signed one of the anti-trans sports bills). 

    Seriously though, I think some of these states deliberately retain anachronisms throughout their code just for the hell of it. Didn’t Mississippi wait until this century to repeal slavery or something? Yes, I just checked and the Last on Every List State ratified the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery in 2013. It makes one reevaluate the old expression “better late than never.”  

    Meanwhile, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit just heard oral arguments in the challenge to Idaho’s anti-trans sports bill, the first of its kind that was passed early last year. I watched some of the arguments on YouTube, but our man’s audio was so screwed up I had to turn it off. 

    After Idaho passed the law, it was put on hold by a federal judge, which allowed one of the two plaintiffs to try out for the Boise State women’s cross-country team as a transgender woman. She didn’t make the squad, which illustrates the absurdity of these efforts to “protect” cis-female athletes. The judges on the panel included a friendly Obama appointee, a sleepy Clinton pick, and a fairly conservative George W. nominee, so we’ll see. 

    A few days earlier, a federal court judge tossed a challenge to the Connecticut Interscholastic Athletic Conference’s trans friendly sports policies, basing his decision on the High Court’s pro-GLBT ruling last June that placed GLBT rights under the umbrella of sex discrimination. The Alliance Defending Freedom (cue: boo, hiss) will appeal, but if courts continue to view these anti-trans sports laws through the prism of impermissible sex discrimination, many if not all of them will be nullified.

    History Lessons

    My cousin sent Mel and me House Speaker John Boehner’s new book, which we were disposed to enjoy based on the snippets about how much he despises Ted Cruz and thinks the Tea Party House members were morons. Instead, we were sharply reminded of the simplistic, insular, unimaginative, and uncooperative world of the pre-Trump Republicans. Boehner has seemingly not given one thought to updating his 20th Century Reaganesque policy blueprint in the decades since he was first elected to Congress. The son of a bar owner, he sounds like Chris Matthews on his worst day, speculating on the values of a mid-western male working class that belonged to a completely different generation of lunch-bucket buddies just trying to snatch a small piece of the post-war American dream. 

    True, Boehner’s gang was nothing like the completely mad men and women now calling the shots in GOP politics. Indeed, compared to them, Boehner and his ilk are gentlemen and statesmen. But compared to Biden, they are the nay-saying small government pea-brains that have wasted trillions on wars, tax cuts, giveaways to the rich, and sheer ineptitude. I will try to remember that as I watch myself nodding approvingly from the sidelines at Liz Cheney and Mitt Romney. 

    Vacation Tips

    Check out these four headlines from an April 30 news dispatch: “Severely beaten Uzbek blogger under house arrest after release from hospital,” “As many as 49 people are currently in jail for ‘homosexuality’ in Uzbekistan,” “Violence against LGBTI people in Kyrgyzstan intensifies,” and “Gay Latvian set on fire outside his home dies.”

    Last issue, I wrote a very condensed account of bad blood in Poland, where a right-wing wave has targeted gays and where maybe 100 towns have declared themselves “GLBT- free zones.” Indeed, I make no pretense at keeping close track of the state of affairs in the former soviet socialist republics, but it doesn’t look good, does it?

    According to a recent study funded by “Open For Business,” a consortium of tech and financial companies, anti-gay politics and attitudes in four Eastern European countries are to blame for a 2 percent lower economic growth rate representing billions a year in lost opportunities. The report focused on Hungary, Poland, Ukraine, and Romania. Homosexuality is technically “legal” in all four, but there is no marriage equality and discrimination is rife. 

    “Countries that are more open (in terms of LGBT+ rights) are generally speaking financially and economically in a much better place,” the report’s lead author George Perlov told Reuters. Remind you of anything? I’m thinking of Richard Florida’s turn of the century “creative class” theory, that tied a city’s economic growth to its openminded embrace of social and political innovation. The theory, now controversial, originated after Florida noticed a correlation between high achieving cities and gay acceptance back in the 1990s—or so I read somewhere back in the day. All I know is that a rigid, intolerant, conservative, mean city is not likely to attract high tech types, nor will it have much interest for artists, musicians, and entrepreneurs. Ergo, the theory still holds water from my point of view.

    What a Hunk!

    I was about to write about Alan Turing, the new face of the fifty-pound note. But instead, I will lower my standards and turn to the controversy that surrounds the respected Washington Blade reporter Chris Johnson, who recently tweeted some praise for Josh Hawley. 

    “I’m on Capitol Hill and just saw Sen. Hawley walk by,” Johnson wrote on April 26. “His chest is so built you can see it protruding from underneath his suit. I’m sorry but it’s true.” 

    As you know, Josh Hawley is the appalling Missouri Senator who now personifies the worst of the Trumpster insurrectionists. As for his posture towards the GLBT community, he is against the Equality Act, opposes marriage equality, and thinks anti-gay discrimination by religious actors is appropriate in all areas of society. In other words, it’s hard for some of us to imagine he could be an object of desire in any respect. 

    Johnson’s tweet was greeted with widespread WTFs by others in the GLBT tweetosphere and called out by Queerty in a blog post. A couple of days later, Johnson wondered: “Isn’t it part of the gay experience to pine after men who will never return those feelings, even ones who would vote against your rights?”

    I know I have to re-imagine a lesbian version of this scenario in order to weigh in, but even so, I would answer no. My stepson, Nathan, has an amusing (in his view) habit of challenging some of my personal quirks, such as my distaste for heavy dumplings and gravy. 

    “Do you know who else hated dumplings and gravy?” he mused to my baby grandson in a quiet singsongy voice. “Hitler.” 

    The point is, there are some people with whom you can’t identify—on any subject. I can barely manage to bridge the gap between my love of pugs and my profound distaste for the Nazi sympathizing Duke and Duchess of Windsor, who also loved pugs. But I can do it, barely. Because pugs! Their love of pugs is the only thing I like about them and I hate everything else. As for Hitler, forget it. And as for Hawley, I think I would hate him even if he liked pugs. 

    Just now, Nathan has asked whether or not the column I’m writing at present is brilliant, Pulitzer level, or just average (the grade I gave myself last time). I’m not sure, but I feel a little pressure thanks to this query. Does he have any idea who else likes to put pressure on innocent columnists just trying to get by?

    Josh Hawley.

    There Be Monsters

    So, I was just reading an article in The Washington Post about some people’s reasons for avoiding a Covid vaccine. One woman told the Post she kept thinking about a Will Smith movie, I Am Legend, in which everyone is given a cure for cancer that turns them into monsters. 

    “I love that movie, for all kinds of reasons. But that was kind of scary. Don’t want to be a zombie,” she explained. This person was eventually convinced to get a shot after listening to some expert on C-SPAN. “At that point, I felt that it was pretty safe. I believed him,” she told the Post

    That’s all well and good, but this woman was described as a “regular” C-SPAN watcher. That even tops me, a “regular” cable news, and newspaper junkie who consumes large amounts of respectable media. How could she possibly have worried about becoming a “zombie” in the first place? Is she insane? It’s like avoiding the dentist because you watched Marathon Man, and subsequently changing your mind after someone explains that the vast majority of dentists are not sociopaths. It’s a movie!

    Finally, before we go, let me just remind you for the umpteenth time that we are waiting for a pretty major Supreme Court opinion, which should be announced very shortly. Argued in early November, the case will decide whether or not a religious business, organization, or individual can use faith as a First Amendment excuse to ignore GLBT civil rights laws and policies.

    I know I’ve rehashed this case, Fulton v Philadelphia, many times. But it will be our first look at the intensity of this Court’s bias in favor of religious actors, it will be our first direct look at Amy Coney Barrett’s attitude towards GLBTs, and it will set the tone going forward for all sorts of policies, political efforts, legal strategies, and more. All High Court opinions will be released by the end of June, but since this case was argued so early in the session, I thought it would be out by now.

    While we wait, we were all happy to see the Court reject review of a lawsuit filed by Texas against California, challenging California’s refusal to pay for state-sponsored travel to states that do not protect against GLBT bias. It was a good sign.

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on May 6, 2021