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    Ann Rostow: Give It Up, Catholics!

    By Ann Rostow–

    Give It Up, Catholics!

    I never know what to say when the Pope does something relatively nice for our community, emphasis on “relatively.” I gather we are on the brink of a significant three-week synod at the Vatican, where GLBT issues are part of the agenda. As such, some conservative cardinals have been pressing His Popeness for a clarification of his tepid views on same-sex unions, which he provided earlier this year and released to the public on October 2, The Washington Post (along with a zillion other outlets) reported.

    “The Church has a very clear conception of marriage: an exclusive, stable and indissoluble union between a man and a woman, naturally open to the begetting of children. Only this union is called ‘marriage,’” he wrote according to an official translation. “For this reason, the Church avoids any kind of rite or sacramental that could contradict this conviction and give the impression that something that is not marriage is recognized as marriage.”

    So, um, nix on the gay union business.

    “In dealing with people, however,” he went on, “pastoral charity, which must permeate all our decisions and attitudes, must not be lost. The defense of objective truth is not the only expression of this charity, which is also made up of kindness, patience, understanding, tenderness and encouragement. Therefore, we cannot become judges who only deny, reject, exclude.”

    “For this reason,” he continued, “pastoral prudence must adequately discern whether there are forms of blessing, requested by one or more persons, that do not transmit a mistaken conception of marriage. Because when a blessing is requested, one is expressing a request for help from God, a plea to be able to live better.”

    Woah Nelly! This sounds like the green light for a vague unofficial blessing of some sort! Pinch me!

    “Although there are situations that from the objective point of view are not morally acceptable,” he continued, “pastoral charity itself requires us not to treat as ‘sinners’ other people whose guilt or responsibility may be attenuated by various factors that influence subjective imputability.”

    Say what? “Subjective impunity?” I don’t have the time or energy to parse this knotty expression, which apparently comes from “St. John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, 17.” Let’s just say that I’m less than overwhelmed with the Pope’s comments, which generated the usual excited headlines that arise whenever he says anything that lacks the tone of unadulterated hostility that usually permeates Vatican statements about gay things. 

    “He’s telling us that there’s a chance!” 


    At first glance, this week does not offer up any blockbuster GLBT community news stories, which is always a relief these days. It also makes my job harder, requiring me to a) string together numerous minor items, or b) wander into the realm of unrelated musings.

    Let’s just start, though, with a 2–1 ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, where, as expected, the panel ruled that Tennessee and Kentucky can go ahead and ban healthcare for transgender kids under 18. Earlier this year, the same panel issued a preliminary injunction, allowing these laws to be enforced during litigation, and sending a strong signal that the majority (one George W. Bush and one Trump nominee) leaned against Lambda Legal, the ACLU, and their clients. That injunction is now confirmed and the case will continue, but not before the whole kit and caboodle likely winds up before the U.S. Supreme Court. The Eleventh Circuit has also ruled against trans kids, while the Eighth Circuit and several lower federal courts have taken our side.  

    Can I just admit to you right here that I am having trouble keeping up with transgender law? It was hard enough back in the day when I juggled a dozen or so marriage equality cases in state and federal courts, but at least the marriage cases were invariably centered on the same group of legal issues.

    Now, we have transgender health cases, transgender sports cases, transgender discrimination cases, drag bans, bathroom cases, and all sorts of other areas of dispute. I was just investigating the Eighth Circuit’s trans-friendly healthcare ruling a minute ago because I wanted to make sure it wasn’t a sports ruling. I myself have been writing that the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of trans health last year, setting up a so-called circuit split that could send the matter to the High Court. But as I was checking on this Sixth Circuit decision, I kept reading that lower federal courts had issued trans friendly decisions but I didn’t see the far more significant Eighth Circuit mentioned. Why? Was I wrong? I wondered, recalling in horror, the many times I have repeated this information to my trusting readership. Are you following this? No? I’m barely following it myself and I’m the one writing it.

    While I was looking for the Eighth Circuit health ruling, (which was indeed a preliminary injunction blocking Arkansas’ transgender health ban), I discovered a new decision from the same court striking down a friendly school district policy that aimed to protect trans kids against parental interference and bullying. What’s this? Turns out the policy of the (Iowa) Linn Mar Community School District was a) mostly gutted by a “parental rights” bill passed by the state legislature earlier this year, and b) impermissibly vague since it mandated “respect” for transgender students without providing a clear context.

    Well, okay, I understand that. But that illustrates another problem with tracking trans cases. The areas of law might vary with every situation. That school case came down to a First Amendment issue. Many trans cases, particularly in schools, involve Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination. The full Fourth Circuit just heard two cases asking whether a state can refuse to insure transgender health services; one from West Virginia, where the state-run Medicaid program is under review; and one from North Carolina, where the state employee insurance plan is seeking to avoid coverage.

    Those raise completely separate issues from your run-of-the-mill trans case and they’re both actually quite different. Or how about the anti-discrimination clause in Obamacare that seems to guarantee equal treatment for gay and trans patients? Does it? Courts want to know! And finally, I am hard pressed to remember who is seeking a temporary injunction and who is seeking a permanent injunction and where the merits cases might stand and what else is under review because it’s often unclear to me. Some of these decisions are close to 100-pages, of which only six contain the relevant information and those are scattered haphazardly around the file.

    Oh, and by the way, I completely forgot to cover that full Fourth Circuit hearing, even though I’ve been writing about it for months. I only remembered just now while blathering on about how hard it is to track transgender law. 

    Spinning Off Track

    After all that, may I be forgiven for skipping the two federal drag ban rulings out of Texas? One judge struck the ban, while our old friend Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, he of abortion pill fame, upheld it. That’s all I’ll say. I’m not reading those rulings.

    Anyone have kids or grandkids? Then let’s talk about Paw Patrol, or actually, let’s talk about the Paw Patrol spin-off, Rubble and Crew, where woke writers have added a non-binary character, generating the usual humphs. My grandchildren have aged out of this genre, but I have always preferred Wonder Pets to Paw Patrol, just based on the jingle and Ming Ming’s sing-song expression: “This. Is. Sewious.” To this day, my wife and I will sometimes quote Ming Ming when remarking on a household matter of some gravity.  

    And, by the way, when I was a kid, whatever I was watching was promptly switched off when a parent came home regardless of my protests. The TV was either turned off, or switched to boring news programs. I recall fantasizing about the day when I could watch cartoons all the time if I felt like it. Here I am all grown up, and in our families, it’s the kids who decide what to watch. How did that happen? I think I’ve complained on this score in prior columns.

    Returning to Rubble and Crew, (did you think I was done with this?) the character of River appears to be a standard tomboy, but they wear blue and pink socks, which evoke transgender colors. According to the rightwing Washington Examiner, writer Lindz Amer confirmed, or maybe triggered, the Examiner’s suspicions on Instagram: 

    “I wanted to write a non-binary character that was aspirational and incredibly cool, someone for the pups (and kids at home) to look up to,” she wrote. “They found an awesome non-binary actor to voice River, and I’m so so happy about how it turned out.” 

    I have the definite feeling that the anti-woke contingent would not even have noticed this development were it not for Amer’s post, but now the socks are center stage. “It may sound alarmist,” writes whoever it is in the Examiner, “but if you’ve spent any time watching children’s content in the past few years, you’ll be painfully aware that it’s true: Creators are trying to find out if they can incrementally spread gender and sexuality-themed agitprop and get away with it. The mandate for parents is clear: Don’t let them.”

    Agitprop! That’s one of the many words that I believe I know, but have to look up anyway. It’s a combination of “agitation” and “propaganda” invented by the Soviets. Hah! I knew there was something insidious about it. First Khrushchev, now River. 

    Life in These United States

    Josh Kruger, a gay freelance journalist, was killed in his South Philly home the other night, shot seven times by an intruder who remains unidentified. Kruger, 39, was an advocate for the GLBT community and covered homelessness and addiction, both of which he had suffered himself years ago. 

    I thought at first that this might have been a hate crime, but I see in The Philadelphia Inquirer that Josh had been hounded by an ex earlier this year, and recently, some unhinged stranger, calling themselves “Lady Diabla, the She-Devil of the Streets,” came to his house looking for someone and threatening him. In August, someone threw a rock through his window, so it seems that his life was pretty frightening. Whatever the story, it’s sad. He seems like he was a pretty nice guy, and a brave one.

    Let’s see what else. The Department of Health and Human Services has proposed a new guideline for foster care, requiring state foster care agencies to make sure that kids who come out as GLBT are not placed with antigay foster parents. That’s the gist of the regulation, which obviously concerns those kids old enough to have an orientation to begin with.

    “The proposed rule would protect LGBTQI+ youth by placing them in environments free of hostility, mistreatment, or abuse based on the child’s LGBTQI+ status,” said the Department in an overview. “And the proposed rule would require that caregivers for LGBTQI+ children are properly and fully trained to provide for the needs of the child related to the child’s self-identified sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.”

    Sounds pretty standard, n’est-ce pas? Not according to “news busters,” whoever they are, who claim in their headline that the suggested: “HHS Will Remove LGBTQ Foster Kids From Homes That Don’t Affirm Their Delusions.” 

    The HSS statement, this person writes, “indicated that HHS will do all it could to ‘Protect LGBTQI+ youth in foster care.’ Yup. The HHS wants to help kids who are probably already suffering from mental health issues from having to be pulled from their family home, continue on a negative mental health path. Really seems like they aim to put ‘children’s well-being first …’ NOT!”

    I bet if I looked around, I could find a dozen more reactions of this nature. “Essentially,” our news buster continues, “if a foster family doesn’t think it’s best for their foster child to get his penis turned into a vagina, the child will be removed from the home and placed in one who will help affirm their delusion.” 

    Today, there is nothing our community can do, say, write, or advocate that will not generate public outrage, litigation, ranting, false articles, ballistic social media posts, or even violent acts. We have no choice but to prepare for the continued onslaught, and as the British once said in a time of crisis, keep calm and carry on.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on October 5, 2023