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    Ann Rostow: Cheater in Chief

    By Ann Rostow–

    Cheater in Chief

    Hello, dear readers. I write today from Scotland, where the skies are steel grey and the wind coming off some Arctic sea is 20 degrees colder than the air temperature. Brrr. While I was sleeping, the Cathedral of Notre Dame burned as thousands watched in horror, and I caught snippets of conversation about this from the adults already stirring in the house as I woke up, giving my day a surreal beginning.

    In local GLBT news, someone has introduced an official gay tartan, so get your kilts and sporrans on, guys and gals. Also, an Australian rugby player said hell awaits gays and lesbians, and a U.K. rugby player “liked” that guy’s post, getting both of them into trouble of some sort. But honestly, folks. Do any of us really care about rugby, let alone nasty sounding individual rugby players? I’ll answer that question. No, we do not.

    We do care about golf, however. Someone has written a book about Trump’s behavior on the golf course, and the excerpts I’ve seen were extreme. You don’t have to be a golfer to recognize that you’re not supposed to mess with your ball, say to kick it out from behind a tree. You are also supposed to count every shot. But in a friendly game, people have different standards. One player may just be having fun. Another may be strictly following all the rules of golf. You’re generally not competing against each other, so who cares as long as all is understood.

    It’s galling, however, when one player pretends to the rest of the foursome that he or she is playing seriously when he or she is not. “This is for par,” they announce proudly while lining up a putt after taking an extra shot off the tee and losing a ball in the rough. No, it’s not. It’s for a quadruple bogey. Then they count everyone else’s score for them. “Four for me! Ann, what did you get? Seven?”

    Needless to say, Trump is one of those players, but what really dropped my jaw amidst the litany of Trump’s etiquette violations was the time he allegedly drove up to the green on a lengthy par five ahead of one of his playing partners, who had magnificently managed to hit his second shot onto the green. Non-golfers, please stay with me. Before the other guy arrived, Trump reportedly went up to the guy’s ball and knocked it into a sand trap. Trust me, that kind of spitefulness is simply unheard of on the golf course. This man is beyond redemption in every respect. I fall asleep imagining him getting crushed in 2020.

    Waiting for SCOTUS, Again

    Meanwhile, back on our side of the Atlantic, the Supreme Court again took no action on the several petitions we are watching. I never know exactly how many there are, because I have been thinking there are four and I just read somewhere that our community is interested in five cases. You may recall that I missed one about the unfriendly Hawaii bed and breakfast owner last month and had to admit, with shame, that the High Court had declined to review a gay rights victory out of the Island State courts—a victory that I had neglected to cover to begin with. Sorry!

    But without belaboring the legal arguments, it behooves us every now and then to run through the cases that have been hanging around on the Court’s conference lists for months and months.

    First, there’s the Second Circuit full court ruling in favor of a (now dead) gay skydiving instructor (Zarda!) who sued his employer under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 after he was fired. Title VII forbids workplace discrimination on the basis of sex and other factors, and our side has long argued that the ban against sex discrimination extends to sexual orientation bias as well.

    Second, there’s a parallel case of Gerald Bostock, a social worker in Georgia’s Clayton County who was fired after he joined a gay softball league. Unlike Zarda, the sky diver in the Second Circuit case, Bostock lost his Title VII suit, and the full court of appeals for the Eleventh Circuit declined to take his case, leading him to ask the nine justices for review. Savvy legal readers will note that Zarda and Bostock amount to a circuit split: conflicting rulings from the federal appellate bench that usually lead the Supreme Court to accept petitions.

    Third, there’s a transgender Title VII case out of Michigan, where a transwoman funeral parlor employee, Aimee Stephens, was let go after transitioning and sued. Stephens won her case before a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last year, and the funeral home appealed to the High Court. Note that transgender bias and sexual orientation bias raise slightly different legal issues, but basically, we have three cases teed up for the justices to examine our communal status under existing federal workplace law and yet, the Court delays. It’s not clear whether or not this is a good omen or a bad one.

    Lastly, the Court could decide whether or not transgender kids require access to bathrooms and locker rooms under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. You may recall that we had the Grimm case presenting the same issue in 2016, but the Trump administration’s change in legal policy led the Court to kick that case back to the lower court on something of a technicality. This time, transphobic parents are suing the Boyertown School District in Philly, insisting little Johnny should not have to contend with trans boys in the loo.

    I’m guessing that case number five is the wedding cake case featuring Sweet Cakes by Melissa Klein of Oregon. I really don’t like this woman and tend to block her litigious shenanigans from my conscious mind whenever I can. At any rate, you can see why our advocates squirm every week or two as the justices sit down for their conferences and subsequently announce which cases they accept, which cases they decline, and which ones just get a sharp kick down the road. It takes four justices to agree to hear a case, by the way, so you do the math and speculate as you will.

    Transwoman Granted Asylum, Not Released

    Keep in mind, before we move on to other topics, that these same questions surrounding Title VII and Title IX continue to be litigated in the lower courts and the federal appellate courts. So, while the justices dilly and dally, the pressure to take a stand will only increase. Oh, and the merits of Trump’s anti-transgender military policy will eventually join our other petitions before the top bench as well.

    Speaking of transgender public school kids, I just read about some boys in North Pole, Alaska—a real city—who decided to protest after a transboy posted a selfie of himself in the boys bathroom. Seven boys planned to barge into the girls’ room to make some kind of a point, but when the lead boy went in, he was promptly kneed in the nuts by the first girl he encountered. The other boys beat a fast retreat and the girl was expelled for using excessive force. Expelled! Really? Do you think a male administrator came up with that punishment? I guess bad publicity may force them to think twice about the sanction.

    In serious transgender news, Muhlaysia Booker, a Dallas woman, was beaten to a pulp and left unconscious by a gang of men after a minor auto incident, while people watched and someone took a video. Eventually, she was dragged to safety by some female passersby. She is recovering after a trip to the hospital.

    And in a situation that defies belief even in this day and age, a transwoman who was granted asylum last October has remained in ICE custody for unknown reasons, housed with males in a New Mexico compound. Nicole Garcia Aguilar escaped from rape and death threats in Honduras only to fall victim to a Kafka-esque nightmare of discrimination and imprisonment. The ACLU of New Mexico and the National Immigration Justice Center have filed suit to have her freed.

    Promo Homo

    So, there’s a hodgepodge of important GLBT developments for our news mill, but I’m more in the mood for whimsical flights of fancy. And yet, duty calls.

    Massachusetts has banned conversion therapy, becoming the 16th state to outlaw the torturous practice. Actually, that reminds me that the Supreme Court did take some action of note last week, deciding not to review a Third Circuit ruling that upheld New Jersey’s ban on conversion therapy. This was not unexpected, considering that they had already rejected this case once before, and frankly, I’m not quite sure why it resurfaced to begin with. Let’s draw a veil over the whole thing, shall we?

    Speaking of conversion, the other day we rewatched a clip from a November 2017 Mass Resistance conference, an antigay confab that kicked off their program with an interpretative dance by one Derek Paul, who swooned and swayed with what looked like rainbow flags to a song that included the lyrics “love keeps no records of wrong,” (apparently part of a Bible verse). I heartily recommend that you google this for a few minutes of pure entertainment from a man who apparently is himself a product of conversion therapy. Or at least he has been redirected from a walk on the wild side to marriage and fatherhood as well as colorful stage performances.

    Over in Arizona, the legislature has repealed a 1991 law, which mandated that public school health educators should cover HIV/AIDS topics without saying anything positive about homosexuality. So that’s gone, although six other states still enforce some kind of no-promo-homo laws. Hat tips to Lambda and the National Center for Lesbian Rights for filing the lawsuit that triggered this action.
    And a gay male couple in upstate New York has picked up $25,000 in damages plus an apology from a clerk who refused to give them a marriage license, suggesting instead that they “make an appointment,” presumably with a non-Christian bureaucrat. Good for them, but this comes at a time when state after state is trying to enact laws that would “protect” religiously bigoted officeholders, along with antigay business people and who knows who else.

    Modern Family

    I also have what purports to be a gay bird story involving two male eagles and a female in Illinois who have successfully raised three chicks, including a recent hatchling. But unlike the devoted penguins and monogamous swan couples of previous columns, there’s no evidence that these birds have anything going on other than an unusual parenting arrangement. Why would people jump to the conclusion that the male eagles are gay?

    According to press reports, the female has mated with both males, so there’s that. On the other hand, the males used to have a different female partner who died, so it seems they stuck together before discovering this new female.

    I’m thinking Netflix Original six-part series. Maybe done as a flashback from one of the chick’s perspectives after they’re grown? Maybe there’s a chick from the original family who is now a surly adolescent. The situation is rife with possibilities.

    And finally, apropos of nothing, did you see Trump’s recommendation to the marketing staff at Boeing?

    “If I were Boeing,” he tweeted, “I would FIX the Boeing 737 MAX, add some additional great features, & REBRAND the plane with a new name. No product has suffered like this one. But again, what the hell do I know?” (Italics mine.)

    Additional great features? Like what? Hot showers in the foredeck? Talking tray tables? A safety device that prevents the autopilot from sending the plane into a nosedive? And who exactly is going to be fooled by a rebranded name? American Airlines? Delta? KLM? I can see the executives at the budget meeting.

    “No Marsha, I’m not talking about the 737 MAX. I’m suggesting we upgrade the fleet with that new plane. The one with the talking tray tables.”

    “Oh. You mean the Super Duper Xtreme Flyer? It’s the same plane with different tray tables.”

    “But it also has a different name.”

    “Oh, Okay.”