Recent Comments


    Ann Rostow: Glad That Year’s Over

    By Ann Rostow–

    Glad That Year’s Over

    Hello again, dear readers. The holidays are over, we are on to 2024, and I trust we are all ready to forge once more into the breach and tackle the critical issues of GLBT law and politics that we’ve been able to ignore for several weeks now.

    For my part, I’ve just spent the last few hours procrastinating, complaining, and taking a nap. Because I’m not ready. I’m depressed by the venom and meanness of Trump and his hapless followers. I’m tired of the small-minded rightwing politicians and their craven machinations. I see from an ACLU report that, as of mid-December, a record-setting 510 anti-GLBT bills were proposed in state legislatures across the country, a three-fold increase from 2022. God knows what these horsebutts are going to come up with this year, but I’m not looking forward to struggling with their unholy agendas.

    And, of course, it’s not just our community in the crosshairs. Pregnant women, Black and Latino citizens, immigrants, foreign allies, poor people, sick people, teachers, publishers—the list goes on. I think Biden has been a really good president in so many ways, but he lacks the made-for-TV accomplishments that stand out in the public mind and he gets no credit for anything he’s done. Toss in his frail persona and a Vice President operating under the radar and we’re relying on an uninspiring Democratic ticket to save us from a charismatic madman.

    There’s now a clear possibility Trump could be reelected ten months hence. Why did I think his various criminal indictments and civil suits would be enough to take him off the political stage? Was I just naive? And am I guilty of careless assumptions in other areas? How about our legal affairs as the year begins? Are we headed for High Court defeats that could set us back a generation? 

    Is it any wonder that I’d rather be napping or reading about the NFL playoffs? 

    Back to the Future 

    In late December, Ohio Governor Mike DeWine (R) vetoed his state’s pending law against healthcare for transgender minors, following that up a week later with an Executive Order blocking transition surgeries at state hospitals for people under 18. The original law would have also banned puberty blockers and hormone treatments, and indeed it’s possible that broad statute could come back to life if the Republican legislature overrides the Governor’s veto in coming weeks. In his veto message, DeWine said he believes “the parents, not the government, should be making these crucial decisions for their children.” Sound familiar? It’s the same argument that conservatives have been using to justify book bans and rules against references to sexual orientation in public schools. 

    DeWine’s compromise is sure better than nothing. You can wait to decide on surgery, but puberty blockers won’t do you much good if you’re over 18. As for hormone treatments, they’re nothing to be taken lightly but they can be essential to the mental health of transgender youth. 

    Last year, The New York Times told us that 22 states enacted full bans on transgender health care for minors. As you may remember, these laws have been tested in the federal courts, and in many cases, they have been blocked while litigation runs its course. Just the other day, Idaho District Court Judge Lynn Winmill determined that the Spud State could not allow its law to take effect as scheduled on January 1, ruling that the parents of transgender kids easily passed the Fourteenth Amendment’s legal tests and were likely to prevail in their suit against the state.  

    “As the Court sees it,” Judge Winmill wrote, “the appropriately precise way to frame the issue is to ask whether parents’ fundamental right to care for their children includes the right to choose a particular medical treatment, in consultation with their health care provider, that is generally available and accepted in the medical community. And the Court has no difficulty concluding that such a right is deeply rooted in our nation’s history and traditions and implicit in our concept of ordered liberty.”

    Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador said he would appeal the ruling, so we’ll have the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit stepping into our headlines shortly. Meanwhile, all of this may be moot if the Supreme Court agrees to hear the appeal of a Sixth Circuit ruling against transgender health rights in Tennessee. The ACLU has taken a risk in asking the High Court to weigh in on this question, but did they really have a choice? After all, the question of whether states can ban these commonly accepted medical treatments is not going away. In fact, we are waiting for a key ruling from the full Fourth Circuit on whether state insurance systems can block transgender care in separate cases out of North Carolina and West Virginia.

    It’s all pretty damned complicated, if you ask me, and that’s just the logistics of the court cases. Throw in the legal issues and the science and the politics and, well, that’s when I start thinking about a nap. Or having a cocktail. 

    Public Eyes Are Watching You

    In other Supreme Court news, the Metropolitan School District of Martinsville, Indiana, has asked the nine justices to reverse a trans-friendly ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Back in August, the appellate court ruled that the school had violated Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination in public education by preventing a transboy from using the boys’ bathrooms. The school sought High Court review in October and the ACLU filed an opposition brief last month. Obviously, we don’t want the Court to review a favorable ruling, but we’ll see.

    So, we’ve got two trans petitions on the High Court’s possibilities list. But there may be others. The full Second Circuit has been considering whether or not Connecticut has the right to protect trans girls and women from being kicked off public sports teams. At present, Connecticut has a statewide trans-friendly sports policy, which was upheld by a Second Circuit panel earlier last year. After that decision, however, the full Second Circuit decided to rehear the case, a most unusual development for that court. Obviously, it’s possible that case will be decided and also appealed to the Supreme Court.

    There may be others, but these three issues cover a lot of transgender legal ground; discrimination in facilities, state control of medical treatment, and trans girls and women in sports. We also just saw a federal judge in Iowa issue a preliminary injunction against a new law forbidding teachers from discussing GLBT issues with students through sixth grade. Judge Stephen Locher left part of the law in force, namely a ban on books that depict graphic sex. Spoil sport! I don’t know about you, but my school library didn’t have any of those available, and my little friends and I would have found them if they were there. The best we had was a large book called The Epic of Man that included some photos of African tribeswomen in a state of undress. We were transfixed. 

    We’re Waiting, Kim!

    What else is new, you ask? Well, our old friend Kim Davis, the former county clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, has now been told to pay $260,104 in attorney fees and expenses to the lawyers for one of the two gay couples who sued her after she refused to marry them in defiance of the High Court’s 2015 marriage ruling. Davis was already on the hook for $100,000 in damages to the men. Now she has to shell out to their lawyers, as is usual for the loser of a civil rights case. Davis had claimed the fees were excessive, but a federal judge disagreed.

    There’s another gay couple with (I think) another set of lawyers, but they didn’t win any money in their case, which was tried separately. As I wrote before, I have the eerie sensation that I have written a dozen little snippets about how Kim Davis has been ordered to pay this or that, and yet the stories keep coming. And as far as I know, she’s never paid any of these debts. I see as well that Davis’ lawyers are expected to appeal this latest decision. Who is paying those lawyers, I wonder?

    And did you see that California now requires major retailers with a state workforce of 500 or more to include gender neutral toy sections? They can still have boy and girl sections, but they also must have a third space that includes a “reasonable selection” of toys that any child would like. Assemblymember Evan Low, a “key sponsor” according to NBC News, says the measure will make “it easier to compare similar items for sale at large retailers without reinforcing gender stereotypes that harm vulnerable children.”

    I’m rolling my eyes at this, but not because I favor “reinforcing gender stereotypes” or “harming vulnerable children.” It’s because changes like this shouldn’t be a matter for state legislatures or politicians. Stores should evolve in this direction as society changes, not be fined $250 to $500 for failing to follow a vague-sounding law (which I haven’t read, but still). Also, trans-boys can shop in the boys’ section if they like anyway, and why was this law passed in 2021 but only put into effect now?

    Personally, I’m not sure I ever saw a “boys” and “girls” section in a toy store, although there are certainly “doll” sections and “truck” sections for those who want to veer off in those directions. As for making it easier to compare similar items at large retailers, I don’t even understand what that means. Aren’t the similar items already placed together?

    I guess it’s just that with everything there is to do in this world, for us and for other communities, did we really need to bother with gender neutral toy aisles? And couldn’t we have done it in less than four years?


    I’m going to Topeka in ten days where they have a foot of snow and are expecting a high one day next week of zero. My stepson helpfully told us it will “warm back up” by the time we arrive, which I gather means a high of 30 or so. This does not count as warming up in my book, which is titled Below 60 is Very Cold. And no, I do not find snow delightful because I am no longer six years old. I’ll write you from there with all my whining and complaining on this subject magnified by actual suffering.

    But finally, have you followed the hoopla over a New York Times opinion piece that suggests Taylor Swift might have been obliged by celebrity to hide her gay or bisexual inclinations? After it was published in early January, there was something of a backlash by Swift’s fans and friends, calling out the Times for this type of groundless speculation. Naturally, I was going to read the piece before making any assessments.

    Dutifully, I started in on it before realizing that first, it was tedious, and second, it was frigging 5,000 words long! The combination of those two features made it impossible to finish, but I was left with the impression that the writer had a girl crush on Tay Tay and felt compelled to relate her desperate attempts to find bi-curious symbolism in her lyrics and style.

    What I couldn’t accept was the decision by my favorite newspaper to air these musings, which were presented as an essay on sexuality and society’s implicit censorship. Five thousand words? C’mon, Gray Lady! No one can string out a polemic that long unless they are obsessed with their subject. Plus, it seemed pretentious, an accusation I’d make if I had actually read the entire thing. Since I haven’t, I will restrain myself out of fairness.

    I’ve become a big fan of Taylor Swift, mostly because of her generosity and kindness to her entourage and her admirers. She also seems smart and independent. Finally, I love the Chiefs! I’m one of these crossover Swifties who have grown attached to her because of her affair with Travis Kelce, the Chiefs tight end. Kelce, in turn, has many new fans because of his affair with Swift. As for her sexuality, does everyone we like have to be either gay or hiding a secret gay interest? After all, nine in ten of us are straight and just as we don’t appreciate having our sexual orientations questioned, neither do they.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on January 11, 2024