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    Ann Rostow: You Are Getting Very Sleepy

    By Ann Rostow–

    You Are Getting Very Sleepy

    My eyes usually glaze over when I stumble over a poll headline, but I was drawn into the latest Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) report, which illustrated an astonishingly high level of support for GLBT rights access the board in this country. The annual survey is not one of these random internet questionnaires. Some 10,000 Americans are interviewed for the report, which this year showed 76 percent of us in support of full nondiscrimination laws covering gay and transgender men and women. The number has crept up from around 70 percent five years back, and includes 85 percent of Democrats and 62 percent of Republicans.

    Majorities support GLBT rights in every faith group, across all racial divides, and in all generations. The more supportive religious believers were white mainline protestants, at 82 percent. The least supportive, white evangelicals, still came in at 62 percent in favor. Respondents under 50 were roughly ten points more favorable than those over 50, with responses in the 80 percent range versus high 60s or low 70s.

    When it comes to the key question of whether a religious business should be allowed to refuse service to GLBT customers, a slimmer majority agrees with us that this kind of bias is wrong. Relatively high levels of Republicans (58 percent) and white evangelicals (49 percent) still think these businesses should be allowed to discriminate based on faith. All other political and religious groups disagree, with 61 percent opposed to antigay business practices and 33 percent in favor. That’s better than we tend to imagine, if I may speak for the entire GLBT community off the top of my head. 

    Even majorities of Republicans now support marriage equality, up to 51 percent from 31 percent less than ten years ago, while white evangelicals are the only group still to hesitate on this score with 43 percent in favor of our unions and 50 percent opposed. 

    Hey, I apologize if I just made your eyes glaze over, but these numbers make clear that we are making progress, major progress, and that national Republican politicians are way off the mark if they turn their backs on GLBT legislation as they seem intent on doing. It also suggests that GLBT activists who never stray from horrific talking points do us a disservice. Like the slogan says, it gets better.

    Bless Me, Father

    I think it’s because of our sense that it’s getting better that the news out of the Vatican last week was so jarring. Clarifying a matter of Church law, some mucky mucks in Rome issued a Vatican decree, stating that same-sex unions are “illicit,” “not ordered to the Creator’s plan,” and could not be blessed. Since the Pope is obliged to sign off on such statements, there was no denying the fact that everyone’s favorite broadminded pontiff was taking a step away from our side.

    I don’t feel like going back to the PRRI poll for exact details, but I can tell you that American Catholics rank very high on the gay-friendly scale, much friendlier, for example, than our friends in the white evangelical churches. That said, the Catholic Church is the Catholic Church, and even if Pope Francis is famous for once musing, “Who am I to judge?” the answer is that he’s the guardian of a relentlessly strict theological doctrine and that God “cannot bless the sin.” 

    Care to join me for a few Hail Mary’s and a cocktail?

    Are They Out There?

    Before we continue, did you happen to read that the government will soon release a report on “Advanced Aerial Threats,” detailing our experience with UFOs? According to John Ratcliff, the Trumpy former head of the intelligence services, the report will be big! Speaking to the once-credible Maria Bartiromo, Ratcliff told viewers, “There are a lot more sightings than have been made public.” The report, mandated somewhere in the fine print of the 2020 appropriations bill, will also include UFO sightings from around the world that found their way into our files. 

    Oh, who knows? I have read several depressing articles by impressive-sounding physicists who explain that it’s impossible for advanced civilizations to have visited us in secret. But have none of them watched Star Trek? Isn’t it likely that such visitors would have rules against making themselves known to simple species like us, and would instead observe us from hologram hideaways or cloaked ships?

    I’ve always been annoyed by people who complain loudly that the government is “hiding” stuff from us, as if any responsible government leader would issue press announcements about creatures from outer space. Our citizens had a crazed mass panic attack in 1938 when it seemed Martians were heading our way. Why would anyone expect the American public to react with thoughtful maturity if some actual evidence came to light? We’d be back in the streets screaming. 

    Now, however, we’ve all seen enough movies and watched enough episodes of Ancient Aliens to be able to handle the truth. Particularly if the truth does not involve mummified space people. Bring it on!

    Ryan’s Song

    So, I guess Amazon is in trouble for “cancelling” an anti-trans book called When Harry Became Sally, written by a guy called Ryan Anderson, who seems to dine out on making politically incorrect remarks about gay couples and transgender men and women. The Harry Sally book has been in print for several years, but Amazon has recently taken it off the list, creating a big hue and cry about censorship.

    I guess Anderson styled himself as a handsome young rightwinger back in 2015, when he ran around making “measured” arguments against marriage equality, and reveling in his contrarian status. In a profile that year, when Anderson was 33, The Washington Post said he had been “taking unexpected positions all his life, as an antiabortion activist in college and as a conservative at the liberal Quaker Friends School in Baltimore, where he grew up.” Anderson, we learned, was also a percussionist, and “keeps in his Washington apartment a marimba, a vibraphone, a hammered dulcimer, and an electronic drum set.”

    A hammered dulcimer! Give me a gay break, as we used to say. Anderson, who clearly was aiming to carve out a space in the up-and-coming conservative iconoclast rubric, apparently failed to get enough traction out of trashing same-sex marriage, and like many of our frustrated adversaries, turned his attention to trans-bashing. Even though I haven’t read his 2018 book, I think I can deduce, from the scathing reviews and from Anderson’s own dim view of transgender activism, that his conclusions are not useful additions to the marketplace of ideas. 

    As for Amazon, they have recently decided that they will no longer sell books that “frame LGBTQ+ identity as a mental illness.” Reading that, Mr. Anderson jumped into the fray and demanded to know exactly where in the book he used the phrase “mental illness.” Meanwhile, four senators, including our new Most Despised Senator, Josh Hawley, pounced on Amazon with the usual complaints about cancel culture and censorship.

    Kristi Backs Down

    As we’ve been saying, transgender attack bills are all the rage in the state legislatures this session, and the bills keep coming, particularly those that bar trans girls and women from playing sports. On Friday, March 19, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, she of Trumpety COVID-19 fame, announced she would not sign the anti-trans sports bill that sits on her desk, recommending instead that lawmakers restructure the bill so it doesn’t apply to college kids. Noem apparently recognizes that the NCAA runs college athletics in this country, has its own trans-inclusive rules, and wouldn’t hesitate to blackball South Dakota as it once did to North Carolina. 

    She is nonetheless in trouble with conservatives in her state, a state, by the way, where there are no transgender school athletes and where only one transgirl has ever been officially enrolled in school sports, according to the South Dakota High School Activities Association. 

    Also, please check out, if you will, the testimony of Brandon Boulware, speaking before the Missouri House in support of his transgender daughter who plays volleyball, tennis, and dance at school. Just google his name. You’ll be glad you did.

    My Little Pony

    Let’s see, what else? Japanese gays and lesbians are celebrating a key court ruling that may eventually pave the way for a High Court ruling in favor of marriage equality in the next couple of years. Slow but steady, I guess. I’ve always preferred fast and furious. 

    And I couldn’t help but notice that the Lexus International Gay Polo Tournament will be played from March 25 to the 28th in Wellington, Florida, at the International Polo Club. 

    “The Gay Polo League,” we learn, “is dedicated to inspiring and empowering those individuals who identify themselves as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and other non-traditional sexual or gender identities through the promotion of and participation in the sport of polo.” 

    Hmmm. Is that a thing? Gay rights and polo? Are we being reverse snobs to turn up our noses at this association? I think so. If people are going to play polo, they may as well do it in the right spirit.

    Speaking of rich gay people, I guess there were two British gay men who became somewhat famous for wanting a family back in the day and adopting a whole bunch of kids. Tony and Barrie Drewitt-Barlow are now separated, but are still good friends.

    Apparently, Tony made a ton of money investing in bitcoin, and at any rate, they all went on Below Deck Sailing Yacht with their 21-year-old twins (Saffron and Aspen), 17-year-old son (Orlando) and 11-year-old twins (Dallas and Jasper). Also, along for the ride was Scott Hutchison, Saffron’s former boyfriend who is now Barrie’s significant other, and their daughter (Valentina).

    There was I time, I confess, when the various Below Decks were one of my guilty pleasures, although I phased out after all the shows started seeming alike. (To be honest, this was, in part, because I was accidentally watching the same ones two and three times each.) I liked the hedonism, the endless champagne, beautiful coastlines, and the lovely food—except for Chef Mila.) But I never liked the guests. Because if you had that much money, would you spend it on a discounted yacht trip that required you to be on TV the whole time? Answer: no.

    As for the famous gay Dads, did I really read that Barrie has a child with his daughter’s ex-boyfriend? 

    Come On, Joey

    Finally, here’s another one of those cases where longtime partners who married at the first opportunity still did not qualify for a marriage benefit that should have been theirs. Patricia Rolfingsmeyer and Tina Sammons met in 1997, and stayed together until Sammons died of cancer in 2014. Sammons died about three months after the pair managed to legally marry in Baltimore. 

    But even though Sammons worked for the Air Force and the Post Office for many years, her widow did not qualify for federal spousal pension benefits because they had not been married for the required nine months when Sammons died. Rolfingsmeyer sued, but the Trump administration opposed the benefits and the case is now pending appeal at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. The court has put the case on a hold until the Biden Administration presents the government’s new legal posture, which we’re assuming will be more friendly than Trump’s. 

    According to The Washington Post, some 700 or so survivors are in a situation similar to Rolfingsmeyer; having spent their lives with a same-sex partner, but married too late to receive social security benefits. Some courts have ruled in favor of some of these couples, a positive sign for would-be federal pensioners as well.  

    arostow@aol.com

    Published on March 25, 2021