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Fortnight in Review

Sister Sold Ya

Where would you place Liz Cheney on your list of “Reviled Public Figures?” I suppose if you exclude overtly racist politicians and dead people, I’d have to put her in the top ten.

The carpet bagging, I can excuse. But to proclaim a profound commitment to traditional marriage in this day and age? After spending many an allegedly warm and loving holiday with her lesbian sister and sister-in-law and their kids?

Cheney, who as you know is running for the U.S. Senate in her brand new home state of Wyoming, is one of the most rigid ideologues of her generation; a woman who puts the “con” in neocon and makes her dad look like a Teddy Bear.

Now, at a moment in history when even the most conservative voter would likely give her a pass if she simply ducked the subject of marriage equality, she has chosen instead to come out, talons unsheathed, as an antigay hawk. A decade ago, when public majorities frowned on our unions, her father managed to put family first by refusing to support a federal amendment to define marriage in the U.S. Constitution. Freedom means freedom for everyone, he said. Or something like that. And his colleagues acknowledged that his gay daughter gave him a legitimate excuse to defy GOP convention.

And that was years ago! Now, Republicans don’t even need an excuse to support marriage, or at the very least to dismiss the subject as “a difficult controversy.” Liz Cheney could likely have demurred without costing herself a vote. Instead, she chose to stun her sister’s family with outspoken opposition to their marriage, and by extension, their life, their home, their relationship, their very selves. Who does that?

If I were a GOP primary voter in Wyoming, I’d condemn this heartless candidate. And I’d wonder…did she don this position like a new suit for no reason other than perceived political expediency? Or did she manage to witness her sister’s long-term partnership and come away completely unmoved, content in the embrace of unexamined dogma? I don’t know which is worse. Unfortunately, I think Cheney’s opponent is even more draconian than Liz (who says she supports civil unions) so I suppose I’d have to switch parties if I lived in Laramie. That said, the other guy might be a bigger bigot, but I’m assuming his sister’s not married to a woman.

They’re back!
Mean Photographers
Petition High Court

Now that I’ve got that off my chest, shall we move on to the case of the antigay commercial photographer in New Mexico who refused to shoot a same-sex commitment ceremony? I know what you’re thinking! Ann! We already covered that case. The New Mexico Supreme Court ruled in favor of the state a couple of months ago!

Actually, you have no memory of this case whatsoever because you don’t pay attention to legal news, but that’s OK. Because the case has now been appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. You can still catch up!

New Mexico, like almost half the states, bans sexual orientation discrimination in public accommodation. Businesses may not pick and choose their clientele based on characteristics like race or gayness. Nor can an assertion of religious freedom trump a state’s right to keep its commercial arenas free of bias. As such, we are seeing more and more of these bogus claims as various “Christian” butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers try desperately to avoid having to work gay weddings or parties.

Now, the owners of Elane Photography, having lost in state court, are asking the nine justices to review their suit, insisting this time as well that their particular métier involves artistic expression that should be protected under the First Amendment.

You know what? Wedding cake bakers are artists as well. So are florists and caterers. Elane Photography gets paid for pix, period. If Elane is hired to shoot a straight wedding, do you think the staff is allowed to take nothing but “artistic” close ups of the groom’s great aunt because her face has such character? Answer: no.

We’ll see, of course, if the High Court takes the case. Considering they accept one out of every ten zillion petitions, it’s probably a long shot. But the fabricated tension between religion and gay rights is not going away, and it’s possible that the Supremes will hear this dispute eventually.

The other day I was reading about some snake charmers down in Tennessee who have been ordered to get rid of their unholy reptile collection, even though said snakes are ostensibly part of their religious rites. Here again we hear the pious bleating, the wounded cries of the constitutional victim, the insane insistence that the state is trampling on religious freedom. But, as in our gay cases, it comes down to a simple question. Does the state have a legitimate interest in protecting its citizens from deadly animals or discrimination? Um, yes.

Gay with Dick and Jane

Have you heard about the Hallmark tree ornament that reads: “Don we now our fun apparel?” Yes, they switched out the “g” word, and caught a bit of guff from our community watchdogs in return for their efforts.

I’m not so sure I object to the synonym. Why? Because in this day and age, an ornament, card or sweater that reads: “Don we now our gay apparel,” is something that has to be bought by or given to a gay person. It’s one thing to change the lyric if you’re singing the song. There’s no need for that and it would be strange to do so. But when you pull the line out of context and string it up the flagpole, you have to change the word unless you want to make a cute gay Christmas joke.

Under the circumstances, one wonders why Hallmark picked this particular phrase with its compromised semantics to begin with. Why not “deck the halls,” or “hark the herald angels sing?”

Chugga Chugga
Chugga Chugga

So, I confess that I’m writing from a train, and using a new and untrustworthy piece of equipment: a small tablet and a stand-alone keyboard. I can’t go online at the moment, so I am forced to extract interesting news topics from the recesses of my near term memory, deliver them through the rattle of the compartment into the screen, and hope that the keyboard doesn’t suddenly print an unending succession of garbage characters like the Sorcerer’s apprentice with a term paper due.

I recall, for example, that the Democratic governor of Missouri has decided that married gay couples can file joint state income taxes. This pragmatic policy shift will spare Slave State couples from having to file a joint federal return, fill out two single federal returns for the purposes of calculating a number for the state, and then fill out two single state returns.

Yet even this crumb of marriage recognition drew howls from the hard right, as outraged antigay holdouts wailed about the assault on Missouri’s state constitution. There were even calls to impeach the governor, whose name I’m sure I could report if I only had a hot spot.

Meanwhile, President Obama awarded posthumous medals of freedom to lesbian astronaut Sally Ride and gay civil rights activist Bayard Rustin. The cool thing is that Obama gave the medals, our highest civilian honor, to their partners, Tam O’Shaughnessy and Walter Naegle.

I can also tell you off the top of my head that the National Organization for Marriage is up to its neck in red ink, to the tune of a million dollars. And I know that Alec Baldwin got caught calling someone a faggot, a photographer if I’m not mistaken, and was promptly fired from his new anchor job at MSNBC. This is the sort of thing I’d usually confirm, but this afternoon we’re living dangerously.

I haven’t been on a train in a long time, and I’ve forgotten that train tracks take you places that cars can’t go. We’re traveling up the northeastern seaboard, rolling past lakes and inlets, icy streams, bare trees and red brown leaves covering the ground. Every now and then a picturesque little house flies by. It’s all very Hudson River School. No sign of the 21st century whatsoever.

Oh wait. We just pulled into New London. I take it all back.

No News is Not Good

Thanksgiving is upon us, and I can sense the beginning of the dry spell that sweeps up the bits and pieces of GLBT news every year at around this time, leaving nothing but a barren plain. Already I have exhausted the interesting news at my disposal, and yet a significant space sits empty. Hmmm.

It’s partly my fault. I lose patience with stories of our sad communal hardships. I become insular, turning my back on our travails in Uganda and Sochi. Just now I have skipped yet another story about a gay server who got a nasty note instead of a tip. And here’s news of a D.C. woman who ordered an anniversary cake that was supposed to say: “Happy Anniversary Lindsey! Love Sarah.” When Sarah came to pick it up, however, she was given a cake with a scrawled message in icing that read: “Lesbian Anniv. No ballons.”

“Ballons” refer to balloons, a signature design feature on the cakes in this establishment that Sarah had asked them to omit. To make matters worse, the cake included the unwanted balloons, and instead of the carrot cake Sarah ordered, this one was chocolate. At any rate, the manager apologized for the messy scribbling, but not for the weird text. I suppose it’s possible that someone thought the instructions were meant to be displayed on the cake. But probably not, right? Sarah and Lindsay got the cake for free, unless you count the currency of humiliation. (Cue film noir soundtrack crescendo.)

Now, do you want to hear about the teenager who murdered his older gay lover? Me neither. How about the hate crime in Tennessee? No. We already discussed the snake handlers in the Volunteer State and that’s quite enough. Oh, and I gather the city of Portland, Maine, had a long talk with its Russian sister city regarding the now infamous antigay laws now thriving throughout our erstwhile cold war foe.

Portland decided to stick with its sister city of Archangel (population 350,000). But I read that other American cities have severed their ties with Russian siblings. In a meeting with Archangel officials, Portland city leaders discussed gay rights in Archangel, as well as Portland’s ban on hanging out in the median begging for cash.

Look, in the absence of fun, gay, shiny news, let’s give it up for the week. My latest indulgence is to curl up with a glass of wine and watch a Made for TV Christmas movie. You know the ones. The divorcee comes home to her old small town for Christmas with her adorable six-year-old son, and guess who she meets? It’s her old high school boyfriend who now works at the Sheriff’s Office! Or, how about the go-getter corporate executive who has no time for Christmas, until… her car breaks down in a snow storm and she’s rescued by a handsome widower with an adorable six-year-old son? And let’s not forget the Santa rubric, particularly the subset starring one of Santa’s kids who a) doesn’t like Christmas, or b) wants to modernize the toy workshop.

At any rate, there’s nothing like wasting a cold wintry afternoon on one or two of these classics. Glass in hand of course.

arostow@aol.com