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    Anne Rostow: Let Them Eat Cakeshop

    By Ann Rostow

    Let Them Eat Cakeshop

    Two weeks ago I was convinced that the High Court was on the verge of accepting a dangerous case, the infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop affair that pits an antigay baker against the gay friendly state of Colorado. Colorado has championed our right to be free of discrimination (tip o’ the hat to Romer v Evans!) but bigotty baker Jack Phillips has asked the Supremes to reverse his state court defeat.

    Forgive me for returning to this non-story yet again, but the case has been languishing in limbo for months, waiting, perhaps, for one more conservative justice to provide a fourth vote to accept review. April 21 was the first petition review conference for Justice Gorsuch, so I sort of expected Masterpiece to show up on next year’s docket. Instead, it was again delayed until the next conference, scheduled April 28. Hmmm. Somewhere I read that Justice Gorsuch had a limited role in this first meeting, so then I assumed that the critical issue (of whether religious freedom can trump gay civil rights) had been briefly set aside.

    Then came the April 28 session, and still no Masterpiece! Keep in mind, the case has not been rejected. Indeed, it’s been in the hopper longer than any other petition under discussion and is now scheduled for the May 11 conference. Further, a few months back, the justices requested the lower court record on this matter, suggesting that the Court had more than a passing interest in this question.

    So why not fish or cut bait? Is Gorsuch agonizing? Or perhaps, as I saw in a SCOTUSblog note, one or two justices are preparing written dissents for denial of review, a pleasant notion indeed.

    Meanwhile, I just read that Gorsuch will be assigning his own law clerks to go over petitions to the Court. It’s common practice to rely on a pool system, where clerks will evaluate petitions on behalf of most of the justices, but, over the years, several justices have chosen to evaluate the thousands of cases on their own, a process that would allow a deeper analysis of the various issues and claims. Has Gorsuch asked his clerks to provide a lengthy, in-depth report on Masterpiece? What’s the hold up!?

    I’m going to stop here because I’m a tad obsessed with this case, and could easily natter along for another 500 words. But before I go, I was delighted that the High Court saved the polar bears in Alaska by refusing to block government land protections. And they also refused to review the constitutionality of California’s ban on conversion therapy; that’s the second or third time they have effectively upheld such laws. I could check, but we get the picture. And it’s a pretty one indeed.

    Define This!

    There’s much ado in the press about a new Tennessee measure that calls for state law to be interpreted using the “natural and ordinary meaning” of words. This statute, now pending a signature from GOP Governor Bill Haslam, purports to undermine marriage equality by reducing terms like “husband” and “mother” to their heterosexual or gender specific roots.

    The only problem is that this is an unconstitutional gimmick. And, as the Attorney General pointed out the other day, there’s an existing state law on the books that mandates the use of a neutral interpretation of gender in statutory language. In other words, the new law violates current law. Plus, it’s just ridiculous. It’s like passing a law that says the term “marriage” in state law must conform to 20th Century legal definitions. Nice try, bozos. But come on, journalists. Don’t act as if this is a disturbing attack on freedom and equal rights. Call it what it is: nonsense.

    I’m more annoyed by a proposal in Alabama that allows faith-based organizations to discriminate against same-sex adoptive parents. That measure is also awaiting a signature from the governor, although it has been awhile. I guess it’s under “legal review.” Oh, as you probably know, it’s not the Love Governor anymore. It’s his successor, Kay Ivey.

    I suppose I enjoyed the downfall of smarmy Governor Bentley, but I had a hard time blocking repellent mental images whenever someone read aloud those tapes of him sharing fantasies with his paramour. Do you know what I’m talking about? There’s a lot of stuff on the airwaves, and the Internet will diminish you if you let yourself look or listen. Don’t do it.

    I’m sure there are many other nasty state bills lurking in dank crevices, saturated with a fetid conservative runoff. But I’m limiting myself to the ones that jump out at me like spiders.

    Queer as Some Folk

    The Los Angeles Times has decided to drop the use of “homosexual,” “openly gay,” and several other anachronisms, which is fine. I’ve never really liked “homosexual,” but it seems to fit in certain, um, clinical situations. After all, heterosexual is okay, and sometimes you use homosexual in a combined or contrasting sentence. But I’m happy to drop it. We have long been judged as sexual people first, regular people second. Heterosexuals, in turn, are judged as people first, sexual people second, and their word reflects that.

    More interestingly, the newspaper decided that our letter-name should be LGBTQ, with the Q designating either “queer” or “questioning.” It’s not technically an acronym, of course, because it’s unpronounceable.

    I’ve written for a wide range of publications, all of which used either GLBT or LGBT. So I got used to both, and tend to use GLBT for reasons that elude me at present. I dislike adding the “Q.”

    If “Q” is “questioning,” then I think the questioner should answer the question and then join his or her brothers and sisters in the GLBT melting pot. If “Q” is “queer,” then it’s not a category, it’s a separate term. We don’t have letters for every variation on the GLBT theme. Queer is just another word that suits a subset of the GLBT. Oh, you say, but that subset doesn’t feel included in GLBT! Well, neither do other subsets, and we don’t add their names. I don’t like the word “lesbian” personally. I’m sure it’s a generational thing; some internalized homophobia attached itself to the L-word in my head at some point. But I still feel part of the GLBT community. I don’t demand inclusion of my own favorite nouns and adjectives, because the bottom line is that it has to stop somewhere.

    What about non-gendered people? Or intersexed people? They are a part of our community but they don’t get letters. And, no, “queer” is not a catchall for everyone who falls through the cracks. It has its own meaning. I’m thinking we’ll come up with something better in a decade or two. We always do.

    As for “openly gay,” with its implication that the bearer has made the courageous decision not to live a lie, I think it would still have merit when talking about someone who lives in a part of the world where coming out is indeed a heroic act. But for Americans, with some exceptions, if you’re over 25 and gay, you have less and less of an excuse for hiding in the closet to begin with. It’s not courageous to be out. It’s cowardly to be pretending to be straight.

    I said “with some exceptions” and put an age limit in there, so don’t call me heartless.

    Fair Game

    Speaking of being in or out, I read some criticism of reporters who speculated about whether Aaron Hernandez was gay and might have killed his buddy to keep the secret. The former Patriot hanged himself in his cell after these rumors began to circulate. After that, other reports suggested he had a male lover in prison.

    Aaron Hernandez, like Mohammed Atta and the Orlando shooter, is not someone I would welcome with open arms into our diverse and happy-go-lucky community. But if he was gay, and if his hidden sexual orientation played a role in deciding to murder someone, then it’s certainly a legitimate topic for reporters. The criticism I read was not on the order of: “you shouldn’t spread unsubstantiated gossip.” It was more on the order of: “his sexual orientation is irrelevant to the story.”

    Leaving aside the morality of gossip, the man’s sexual orientation sounds pretty relevant. Since when is it automatically gratuitous or taboo to raise the subject of someone’s gay sexual orientation? It reminds me of the legal question of whether calling someone gay is grounds for a defamation suit. If someone called me a Canadian, which is false, could I sue for defamation? No. Should you be able to sue if someone calls you gay, but, in fact, you are straight? Years ago, maybe. But now? I don’t think so.

    Army Weak

    Our new prospective Secretary of the Army, Mark Green, is so homophobic that I can’t even be bothered to list his antigay credentials. He’s a ten on a one-to-ten scale. The Tennessee lawmaker is dreadful in every respect, and it’s particularly annoying that he has been nominated to replace Eric Fanning, who is gay. Can the Senate dump him?

    In other news, a lesbian bishop has been condemned by the Methodist Judicial Council, which ruled that her civil marriage violates church law, given that she is thus exposed as a “self-avowed practicing homosexual.” Denver-based Karen Oliveto has to wait and see whether the Methodist nabobs will vote to oust her in a separate procedure.

    And a mother in Washington State has won a family law dispute now that the state supreme court ruled that she should not be penalized for her sexual orientation in court ordered custody terms. A lower court had ruled that Rachel Black’s devoutly religious ex-husband should have primary custody of their kids, and should also be in charge of the children’s religious education. Rachel was ordered to refrain from talking about her sexual orientation, or “lifestyle choices” as the court put it, and the lower court record was jam packed with antigay subtexts.

    Also, I promised myself I wouldn’t dwell on Title VII law this week, but I should mention that one of the gay workplace discrimination cases out of the Second Circuit has just been appealed to the full bench of that appellate court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit covers New York, Connecticut and Vermont, maybe. (Yes.)

    Note that a High Court victory on one of these Title VII cases would preempt our need for the Equality Act, which has just been reintroduced in Congress.

    Trapped in the Bubble

    I have other news. Five lesbians were attacked coming out of a London pub (singing “I’m in the mood for dancing” before being set upon by a couple dozen thugs). Angela Merkel told Putin to intervene in the ongoing crackdown on gay men in Chechnya. The partner of the police officer who was killed in Paris last month gave a touching eulogy (promptly denounced by Jean Marie LePen). And the ACLU is suing a Catholic hospital in Sacramento that refused to perform a hysterectomy on a transgender man.

    Meanwhile, the Trump train rumbles down the track, and I find myself more estranged from the Republican party than ever before, which disturbs me. But it’s not just their policies; it’s their sycophantic refusal to be appalled by Trump’s combination of childish incoherence and ignorance. They fall over themselves to interpret and translate his idiocy, all the while accusing us, the rest of the country, of nitpicking or trying to turn him into the elite intellectual that voters rejected. You know, I don’t think it’s particularly intellectual to recognize that the Civil War was fought over slavery. I don’t think it’s elite to point out his limited grasp of legislation. It’s not nitpicking to question his embrace of murderous dictators.

    But now I read articles about how we’re all trapped in our bubbles and corners, and I feel as if I am part of the problem. Yet that can’t be right. Seriously!

    I did have a thought about Facebook. If I were Zuckerberg, I would add a feature that allows you to accept one or two stories a day from outside your bubble. Then I would entrust the editors to collect legitimate articles representing a range of views, and feed those through the app. I would definitely accept the challenge.

    I’m at the point where I can’t even read David Brooks without becoming infuriated. That said, Brooks has an annoying habit of trying to simplify complicated social and cultural currents by forcing them into neat themes as if writing a college exam essay, so I have a non-polemical excuse for my irritation.

    arostow@aol.com