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Bigotonni Al Pesto

1-Ann RostowThere’s a lot to discuss this week, but first, I am sad to say that our latest GLBT boycott will require me to actually give up one of my favorite brands. Thus far, my loyal adherence to our community’s official corporate snubs has been relatively painless. Romanian wine? Off the shopping list. Coors beer? I could never really tell the difference between Coors and the others, and indeed, my Coors boycott was so ingrained for so many years that I have trouble drinking the stuff even now when it has been sold to a friendly group and we are encouraged to buy it.

What else? I had never been to a Chick Fil-A in my life and so continue to avoid the franchise with the one exception of the kiss-in at our local branch. Never liked Domino’s to begin with. As for Exxon, I must confess that I have made a few exceptions when forced to choose between political correctness and stranding my car in the middle of, let’s say, western Kansas.

(By the way, Exxon just announced it would offer benefits to the spouses of its married gay staff. A small step in the right direction, but I don’t believe it absolves the company of their decision to strip Mobil staff of domestic partner benefits and discrimination protection after the acquisition.)

Now, however, I can no longer bring myself to buy Barilla pasta. Last week, President Guido Barilla himself told the press he would never market his product to the GLBT community, and observed that gays “can always eat another brand of pasta” if we don’t agree with his views on the traditional family.

After an outraged reaction from around the world, Barilla tried to backtrack, but it’s just too late. Pick another pasta? I always go out of my way to buy Barilla, but not anymore. Never again! Bring on the one that begins with D. I don’t even know the names of Barilla rivals, but I will soon be well versed as I experiment with the competition.

Indeed, further research tells me that other pasta companies have started to take advantage of Barilla’s faux pas-ta, including Garofalo (“we don’t care with whom you cook pasta, the important thing is that you cook it al dente!”) and San Remo (“we’re totally spaghetti and gayballs!”)

Bertolli has a great new print ad with two women sharing a strand of spaghetti that has formed a heart in the middle, and Buitoni has one with various types of pasta arranged like gay symbols. Other companies on a HuffPo list of gay friendly makers include DeCecco (the one I was trying to remember before), Ronzoni, Aldiva, Delallo, al dente, Affreschi, Cipriani and Chef Boyardee. So much for Barilla. Take it off the shelves!

The strangest part of this whole incident is that I feel betrayed and almost hurt by Barilla’s cruel dismissal of my faithful custom. I suppose that because I liked Barilla, I assumed Barilla reciprocated my fondness. And yet, after all the hundreds of pretty pasta boxes I’ve purchased, I’m rewarded by a slap in the face? How many more of my emotionally charged commercial relationships are built on a house of cards? I don’t want to do the research, so I will simply suggest that homophobic CEOs keep their opinions to themselves in the future.

Jersey Licious

By rights I should have some trenchant commentary on the extreme wing of the GOP House majority, but I can’t bring myself to go there. Instead, let’s consider the possibility that New Jersey might become a free marriage state before the month is over.

On Friday, September 27, a lower court ruled that marriages must begin on October 21. As you know, New Jersey’s highest court ordered the state to give equal benefits to gay and straight couples back in 2005, but our brothers and sisters in the Garden State got stuck with civil unions instead of wedlock. These unions were never equal, but now that federal benefits are attached to marriage, they’re even less equal than before.

Chris Christie promptly asked the court to put a hold on its opinion until the state supreme court can review the case, but will it? In the past, these marriage rulings in lower courts have always been stayed as litigation continues up the ladder. But that was in the past.

Various briefings on the proposed stay will be due by Monday, and the court will decide what to do with the October 21 deadline shortly thereafter. Whatever the outcome, it seems clear that the high court will take up the matter sooner rather than later.

It also seems clear that the court will rule in our favor. Even before the Supreme Court ordered federal marriage recognition last June, New Jersey’s civil unions had been exposed as a second-class status. That violates the New Jersey court’s own jurisprudence and cannot stand. Throw in the facts that the state legislature has passed a marriage law (vetoed by Christie), that a majority support equality, and that most sister states on the top side of the East Coast respect our marriages, and the balance is not just tipped in our favor. We’re poised lightly on the top of the see saw, and the other side is holding down the bottom like a two-ton elephant.

The analogy pre-supposes that top is the good side and bottom is the loser. Now that I think about it, it’s not a very good analogy at all, but I’m keeping it because of my Omar Khayyam rule. The moving finger writes, and having writ, moves on…

Mountaineers Next on Federal Marriage List

We have another federal, Prop-8 style, marriage lawsuit to add to our growing list, in West Virginia of all places. I know you’re thinking, “West Virginia? Say what?” But remember, this is a federal case, and West Virginia reports to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit, where I think we have a slight edge in Democratic appointments.

As you know, our state cases argue only that marriage equality must be recognized in State X. Since any state with an antigay constitutional amendment need only point to their voter-approved amendment in order to defeat such a claim, we are running out of state court cases. We’ve got the one in New Jersey, another coming to a head in New Mexico, a slightly complicated case in Pennsylvania, a suit in Illinois, and I think that’s it.

Our main litigation strategy has now shifted to federal cases, the ones like the Prop 8 suit, arguing that state amendments violate the United States constitution. If another one of these cases reaches the Supreme Court and resolves in our favor, marriage equality will become the law of the land.

It was this happy outcome that the High Court ducked last June when it dismissed Prop 8 on a technicality. Hey, we were pleased that Prop 8 died in the process, but we are still looking for the big win that will bring equality to Texas and Mississippi as well as Massachusetts and California.

Now, I’ve lost track of the number of federal cases we’ve filed. There are two in Virginia. There’s one in Pennsylvania (in addition to a state lawsuit contesting the power of a clerk to offer licenses). We’re suing in North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan and in a host of other states where individuals have taken action on their own.

But our most advanced federal lawsuits are claims against Hawaii and Nevada that are both pending before the Ninth Circuit. We lost both in lower courts, and our appeals were delayed during the High Court’s deliberations earlier this year. Now, the combined cases are back on track and should be briefed by the end of next month.

Let’s give the Ninth Circuit a few months to schedule and hear oral arguments, and a few more months to deliberate. In theory, we should have an appellate ruling on marriage by next summer. Remember that the Ninth Circuit has already sort of ruled in our favor in the Prop 8 case. That said, the decision was cramped to say the least. Still, our position is promising and the big question is this:

If the Ninth Circuit delivers a more coherent gay marriage victory next year, will the High Court accept review? Or will they simply allow marriage equality to sweep throughout the western states that fall under the Ninth Circuit and sit on their hands until another circuit rules? If the High Court decides to dither, one of these other federal lawsuits will rise to prominence. At any rate, it feels as if the High Court will have to take the gay version of Loving v Virginia before the decade’s end.

If that seems like a long time to you, look back to what you were doing in the year 2006. It was just yesterday.

Free Speech Has a Pricetag

Oh. I read that Jodie Foster was going out with Ellen’s ex-girlfriend, Alexandra Hedison. I think she’s an actress, or maybe a photographer. Do you care? Whatever happened to the DeeJay she was seeing?

And I have to thank newshound Lisa Keen (who runs a great GLBT news service) for the heads up on an interesting case that may or not arrive on the High Court docket this session.

I was astonished that this case is still around since it stems from an incident long in the past, when Crystal Dixon, an HR director at the University of Toledo, took to the op-ed pages of her local paper to decry the false comparison between gay and black civil rights. You know how everyone bleats about “free speech” the minute someone else objects to their latest diatribe? Well, Dixon, who was fired for her opinions, was no exception.

Indeed, Dixon has the right to proclaim any opinion she likes, and the government or the state cannot stop her. But they can certainly fire her if her opinions clash with her job performance. So can a private employer for that matter. In this case, the university had a non-discrimination ordinance and some other gay friendly policies, and the powers that be decided it was inappropriate for a top hiring executive to make public antigay statements. Dixon sued, but she’s lost at the lower court levels and is now trying to get the High Court to take her case.

I’m not sure they will. But it will be interesting if they do. If you work for the IRS, you can be fired for announcing that the income tax is unconstitutional. If you work for a butcher, you cannot claim your religious views prevent you from touching a cow. If Crystal hates gays so much, she can go work for Barilla Pasta. No one’s forcing her to work for a public university pledged to fight bias. And no one forced her write an op-ed for that matter. Now, she wants to have her cake and eat it too.

Speaking of analogies earlier in this column, I have never understood that cake expression. Why can’t you just eat half the cake and save the other half? Wouldn’t that be having your cake and eating it too?

Wikipedia has provided the translations for this core idea as expressed in foreign proverbs. From Switzerland: “You can’t have the five cent coin and the Swiss bread roll.” From the Persian: “You can’t have the donkey and the sugar dates.” From the Portuguese: “You can’t have the sun shining on the threshing floor while it rains on the turnips.” From the Danish: “You can’t both blow and have flour in your mouth.” And my favorite, from France: “You can’t have the butter and a smile on the face of the girl who makes the butter.”

I have the same problem with the French version as the American. Why can’t you have the butter and the smile?

arostow@aol.com