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    Ann Rostow: Bucket All

    By Ann Rostow–

    Bucket All

    It’s been so long, dear Readers. I’ve missed you! Mel is recovering from the six-hour back surgery, although she can’t really get around well enough to fix cocktails, take out the trash, or fetch me things from around the house. So, all these extra responsibilities fall on my shoulders. Plus, my writing duties! Wait one second while I get myself another cup of coffee, since Myrtille, my imaginary French maid, is taking yet another (paid) day off. 

    I see from my list that the federal appellate courts have been busy again. But first, the Million Moms have taken aim at Kentucky Fried Chicken, finding offense in a TV commercial that gives no rise to controversy whatsoever. 

    “Kentucky Fried Chicken’s new ‘$10 Tuesdays’ commercial includes insinuated profanity that conservatives are finding completely unnecessary,” the Moms complain. “The ad praises their food, of course, and also brags about their $10 Tuesdays deal as part of their ‘Taste of KFC Deals’ campaign. Then the commercial ends soon after the insinuated but obvious profane ending, ‘Son of a bucket, that’s a good deal!’”

    “Foul language (or the implication of it) is not needed in this or any commercial, but that is obviously what KFC intended with their play on words. KFC chose to include a phrase that sounds like a curse word and to end the ad with viewers understanding exactly what was implied.”

    Whatever the ad’s intention, it did not rise to the level of an “obvious profane ending.” I also doubt that many “conservatives” are taking notice one way or another.

    I always feel as if I’m wasting our time when I write about these pearl-clutching Million Moms instead of important political or legal news. But there’s a degree of satisfaction in coming across a situation where “we” (you and me and other rational people) are so clearly in the right and “they” (insane anti-GLBT conservative lunatics) are so laughably in the wrong. I can’t pass it up.

    I won’t even go into the full details of the “dinosaur cartoon” on Netflix, where Million Moms tells us we might encounter “a scene where female characters Yaz and Sammy confess their strong and intimate feelings for each other and share a kiss while embracing in a romantic hug.” Woah, Nellie!

    Stay Tuned

    Let me summarize a few of our appellate court gems. Do you remember a conservative judge who recently ordered some lawyers for Southwest Airlines to take some classes or something from conservative Christians as punishment for, um, whatever? I’m vague on the details here because I decided not to report on this story a few months ago, but I’m pleased to say that judge has been reversed by the normally far-right Fifth Circuit. 

    A First Circuit panel has backed a Massachusetts school district that told a middle school kid to take off his mean-spirited t-shirt.

    And in a confusing ruling that I haven’t yet read, another Fifth Circuit panel has ruled that 8 out of 17 banned books must be returned to circulation at a rural Texas library. 

    All this excitement lies ahead of us.

    Rocky Mountain Hi

    But first, it’s Pride Month. Years of gay rights progress at the end of the 20th century and the start of the 21st led to a corresponding decline in Gay Pride Exhilaration. Instead of politics, daring and non-stop parties, we fell into commercialized banality and family friendly “fun.” Now, things are changing again. 

    “God Hates Pride,” wrote the chair of the Colorado Republican Party, Dave Williams, in an email. “The month of June has arrived and, once again, the godless groomers in our society want to attack what is decent, holy, and righteous so they can ultimately harm our children,” Williams wrote. Over on X, nee Twitter, the State GOP urged readers to: “Burn all the #pride flags this June.” 

    Really? This isn’t some rogue far-right pastor writing from a remote farm in the heart of the old confederacy. It’s the head of the Republican Party, presumably writing with a green light from his GOP colleagues in national positions and in other states. Not only does he accuse our entire community of sex offenses, but also his party advocates violent attacks.

    Mel and I put our rainbow flag up the other day. (I took down the Hook ‘em Horns flag after the University of Texas women failed to win the softball world series.) Again, as I’ve admitted to my chagrin in the past, I felt a frisson of trepidation, a worry that my rainbow colors might trigger a passerby with a gun or a brick. We will put up the stars and stripes for one day, flag day whenever that is, return to rainbow until July 4, move back to stars and stripes until July 14, put up the French flag, and go from there. 

    I’ve got a Ukrainian flag, a Scottish flag, a “party time” flag, a “Hate has no home here” flag, and, of course, a Kansas Jayhawk flag. I know! I’m a regular Martha Ann Alito. Although I will tell you, neither one of us could switch flags without the other person a) noticing and b) having the right to object. Our only problems arise when Texas plays Kansas and my Texas flag gets tied to a tree branch while the Jayhawk goes on the flag pole. Ooooh. Just thinking about that burns me up. 

    And before we move on from Pride, I just saw a story out of Spokane, Washington, where some teenagers rented electric scooters and did wheelies on a rainbow road display, leaving skid marks. Confronted by angry witnesses, one of the kids yelled an expletive followed by a gay slur. All three of them are now in court, facing jail time and fines for malicious mischief. There’s also a lifeguard in California filing suit because he had to raise a rainbow flag, and I’m sure I can find a ton of similar accounts of Pride-related vandalism and hate. 

    But we get the picture. 

    Arrogant Little Creature

    To my credit, I did read all 70 pages of the First Circuit’s opinion in LM v Town of Middleborough, the contest between a conservative 12-year-old student and the middle school authorities who enforced the school dress code, forcing LM to remove a shirt that read: “There are only two genders.” Supported, or perhaps goaded, by his parents, LM objected to the rules, which prohibited messages that denigrated fellow students based on gender and other characteristics. 

    LM announced that he would be returning to school on a particular date, wearing the offending shirt. The school, in turn, told him not to do so. On the day in question, our First Amendment champion came back in the shirt, but taped over the words “only two” and wrote “censored” on the tape. The school determined that the modified garment, known in court papers as “the taped shirt,” was just as bad as the original shirt given that there had been tons of publicity at this point and everyone knew the taped words. Once again, the school told LM to change shirts, and eventually the parents sued, with the help of some of our old buddies at Alliance Defending Freedom.

    The lower court ruled that the shirt trespassed on the constitutional rights of LM’s classmates, and upheld the dress code. The First Circuit, in turn, noted that the school had a duty to protect the students against disruption or whatever chaos the nasty shirt might trigger. However they arrived at their conclusions, both courts agreed that, while a student does not shed his or her constitutional rights at the schoolhouse gates, nor does he or she enjoy unlimited Free Speech rights in the public school context, particularly the middle school context.

    We’ll see if LM and his litigious parents try to send this case to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, don’t you hate it when children position themselves as avatars of philosophical mandates they don’t begin to understand? Gender, constitutional law, the First Amendment, diversity, civil rights, human nature, compassion. LM has everything figured out and he’s not yet a teenager!

    Contemplating Contemptible Contempt 

    I know I teased those other appellate cases, but we don’t have to delve into the details if we don’t want to. The Southwest case was a bizarre one, though. It stemmed from a workplace discrimination case filed by a flight attendant who claimed the airline showed religious bias in violation of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I’m not familiar with the underlying lawsuit, so ask me no further details.

    Southwest lost the case, and in a very strange twist, the federal judge in charge of the matter ordered the airline’s attorneys to take a religious training course of some sort from the Alliance Defending Freedom, that very same far-right legal group that pops up in every instance of anti-GLBT litigation we face. It’s like ordering a bunch of Federalist Society lawyers to spend a weekend being lectured by Lambda and the ACLU after losing a gay rights case.

    This was too much for even the uber-conservative Fifth Circuit, where an all-Republican, three-judge panel put a hold on the order and now has reversed it. For one thing, it wasn’t the lawyers who arguably stepped on the religious rights of the flight attendant. It was the airline people. For another, the order trespassed on the attorneys’ constitutional rights. Anyway, the crazy sanctions have been dropped.

    Speaking of dropping things, we can also drop the book banning story, because we’re tired of commenting on the long game between good and evil that we have now been forced to play for the last decade. Time out for a minute, while I look for something more entertaining.

    Jennifer Seagull

    Here’s a reporter who speaks to me, a man named Jack Mirkinson who writes for The Nation, but in this case for Discourseblog. Mirkinson, with an amusing prose style reminiscent of my own, reveals the history of Lesbian Seagull Island, otherwise known as Santa Barbara Island, a Sapphic avian paradise where 14 percent of gulls are lesbians (as of the late 1970s) and many of the rest are (I’m guessing) in the closet as were quite a few human lesbians in the 1970s.

    It seems the Island and its risqué inhabitants were the object of federal research funds back in the day, because Mirkinson has dug up a complaint from the Congressional Record of 1978, where California GOP Senator S.I. Hayawaka raises the matter of problematic National Science Foundation Grants:

    “I believe the most responsive, sensitive thing we in Congress can do is to cut down on those programs that the general public knows little about, and can do without. As effective as the results of NSF studies can be, the majority of Americans have little need for or interest in a $62,300 study of homosexual sea gulls.” 

    Bite your tongue, Sam. If NSF studies were limited to topics that drew interest from a majority of Americans, I imagine our scientific progress would suffer greatly. And if we started cutting down on federally funded projects that the general public “knows little about,” I think, again, we would do so to our detriment, since few of us pay the slightest attention to the budget and the agenda of the various scientific research operations relying on taxpayer largesse. 

    As for whether or not we all “need” to dig down into the mysteries of lesbian sea gulls, dark matter time warps, deep sea tardigrade habitats, ancient Mayan cities, or other arcane areas of investigation, probably not. But while necessity may be the mother of invention, in my opinion it should bear no relation to NSF funding.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on June 13, 2024