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    Ann Rostow: Hello Again

    By Ann Rostow–

    Hello Again

    We are done with Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years, which means winter is almost in the rear view mirror and spring lies around the corner. I always feel a little sad when the drug store starts selling plastic pumpkins in early September and a little relieved when the valentines arrive. Oh. I was just reminded of some of the inane commercials and radio ads geared to clueless men who don’t know what to do for Valentine’s Day, suggesting they buy giant teddy bears or pajama grams. Hey Guys. Here’s a lesbian pro-tip: Gifts like these are neither romantic nor sexy. They are infantilizing. Just get the damned roses or take her out to dinner. Better yet, pick up a nice  bottle of Champagne. (My wife reads this column.)

    It’s been a month or so since I’ve written to you, and I’m aware of five significant transgender court rulings. Who knows how many have escaped me, but let’s just agree that five is enough for now.

    The Protect Marriage Act hit Biden’s desk, as expected. And the High Court heard arguments in the case of Colorado web designer Lorie Smith, who wants the green light to ignore the state’s civil rights law and reject gay wedding clients. I have low hopes for the outcome of this case, which will be announced in a few months.

    In late December, the absurd Log Cabin (gay) Republicans had an event at Mar-A-Lago, where Trump told them: “We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard. With the help of many of the people here tonight in recent years, our movement has taken incredible strides, the strides you’ve made here is incredible.”

    I thought the Log Cabin guys hit bottom a long time ago, but they seem to be digging into the bedrock for new lows. The notion that Trump, who presided over the most anti-GLBT administration in history, is an ally of our community is beyond ludicrous. That said, I don’t think Trump is particularly antigay at heart any more than I think he is an evangelic Christian. He simply used the far right as a power base, and allowed them to take a jack hammer to our civil rights throughout the federal system.

    And before we start on the news, I just saw that Shaq O’Neal said he would eat a horned frog if Georgia beat TCU in the NCAA national football championship. Considering that Georgia won by the score of 65-7, I’d say he might have to eat two or three frogs in order to live up to the spirit of his pledge. I’ll be curious to see if these were idle words.

    Paging Britbox!

    I know I should jump right into the transgender court cases, but first I must tell you about the latest insane British lesbian, this one a vicar from a small town in the west midlands. As a hint for you, I reminded myself of the details by googling “drunk lesbian vicar,” and sure enough, there she was in a Daily Mail headline that reads:

    “Lesbian vicar ‘punched and bit her female partner in drunken lovers’ spat after necking glass of wine in lockdown’”

    The partner, “Miss Shaw,” said that Michelle Bailey, 54, became “agitated” after they shared a bottle of wine. She began pacing their rented bungalow, attacked and bit Miss Shaw, and deliberately broke Shaw’s glasses before punching her in a sustained assault. This happened in March and I guess the lockdown refers to Covid restrictions.

    But wait! There’s more. Back in 2009, as the Daily Mail tells us: “The mother-of-three previously hit the headlines in her former parish in Stewkley, Buckinghamshire, after leaving her husband for a female bull-breeder. In a blistering sermon she likened her parishioners to a ‘nest of vipers’ and accused them of breaking up her marriage with ‘poisonous’ gossip.” The bull breeder subsequently got together with the vicar’s ex-husband, and then committed suicide.

    Somehow, Bailey got herself another post in the church after that, perhaps by using her maiden name, it’s not clear. Last month, she quit her position before the investigation into the row with Miss Shaw could be completed. She has reportedly spent the last nine months picking up women on dating sites, inviting them over and getting into drunken fights that have led to two police interventions.

    According to the Daily Mail, “she is understood to have gone traveling in a camper-van.” Of course she has! A violent alcoholic nutcase is careening around the British countryside in an RV looking to pick up women in bars. What could go wrong?

    Good News, Bad News

    Let’s start with the biggest case. The full bench of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled, 7-4, that public schools have the right to isolate transgender students in single-sex bathrooms, despite the anti-discrimination language in Title IX. The case involves a boy, Drew Adams, who transitioned as a child and has lived as male for many years.

    This ruling is in direct conflict with two other fairly recent appellate court decisions, the Fourth Circuit’s (second) victory for Gavin Grimm in 2020, and the Seventh Circuit’s ruling in favor of Ash Whitaker in 2017. In 2021, the High Court declined to hear the right wing appeal of the Grimm case, although Justices Thomas and Alito had voted in favor of a review. That was encouraging, but now that we have a full court ruling in the other direction, who knows what the Supremes will do?

    We also saw two rulings on the question of whether religious medical groups can refuse to treat transsexual patients by ignoring the anti-discrimination language in section 1557 of the Affordable Care Act. In early December, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit upheld an injunction in favor of a collection of plaintiffs including the Religious Sisters of Mercy, the Catholic Charities of North Dakota, the Catholic Medical Association, and the State of North Dakota. The injunction applies only to the U.S. government, protecting these and other groups from crackdowns by Health and Human Services during the scope of the lawsuit. Still, who else would have the legal muscle to contest anti-trans actions? This case also suspended the authority of the Equal Employment and Opportunity Agency to force employers to cover health insurance for transgender staff.

    The other transgender health case was handed down January 6, by a federal court that ruled in favor of transman, Jesse Hammons, who was denied a hysterectomy by the St. Joseph Medical Center, a Catholic hospital that operates as part of the University of Maryland. U.S. District Court Judge Deborah Chasanow, ruled that Hammons was entitled to equal treatment under Title IX, as well as the aforementioned ACA’s Section 1557, and that the institution was a state-run entity, given its ties to the university.

    Obviously, the Eighth Circuit case is more consequential, given that the 12 appellate circuit courts are just one rung down from the Supreme Court. But there is more such litigation set to rumble towards the justices in due time; litigation that falls outside our self-imposed file-case limit for this column.

    Two other trans cases involve transwomen in sports, one a victory at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which upheld Connecticut’s transgender anti-discrimination policies against an assault by the Alliance Defending Freedom. Second, a thumbs down for our side from a federal judge in West Virginia who upheld the state’s recently passed law against transgender participation in school athletics. Just as we noted in the health cases, there are numerous other lawsuits involving trans-women athletes, so these case are just two in an developing story. Still, it’s nice to have an appellate court ruling on our side.

    So what does this all mean? Let me confess that after years of covering every nuance in every marriage equality case, I have long since lost track of the strings of many transgender lawsuits, in part because there are a range of different challenged laws and different issues involved. Although the High Court seemed wary of stepping into trans law when rejecting the Grimm case in 2021, it seems likely that the conservative justices will eventually have their opportunity to screw around in these complex and multi-dimensional conflicts. Religious “freedom,” discrimination and civil rights, bathroom issues, the whole debate on sports, and the possibility of denying health care; some or all of it will come into play.

    We also face a barrage of new anti-trans state legislative votes in the 2023 session, where the list of anti-trans and anti-gay proposals lengthens too fast to track. We are in for continued battles, both political and judicial, and continued damage to the most vulnerable coalition in the rainbow flag.

    Yeshiva Loses Another Appeal

    In other legal news, a New York state appellate court told Yeshiva University that, as a publicly funded institution, it cannot ban the YU Pride Alliance student group. You remember this ongoing case that was highlighted late last year when the Supreme Court refused to give Yeshiva a preliminary injunction by a 5-4 vote. Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh agreed that the university was trying an end-around the courts and effectively told them to finish their litigation in New York before trying to hopscotch into Supreme Court territory. Yeshiva promptly banned all student clubs while their legal efforts continue, and now, they will presumably have to appeal their latest loss to the New York Court.

    And in other Supreme Court news, the justices have asked the Solicitor General to weigh in on that Charter Day Schools case. That’s the one about the religious charter school in North Carolina that wants to make all the girls wear skirts and act feminine while all the boys act chivalrous and respectful. I forget the details, but after Charter Day Schools lost their case 10-6 before the full bench of the Fourth Circuit, they asked the High Court for review. It sounds as if the Court is interested in taking the case, doesn’t it? Charter Day Schools accept public money, so in theory, they should not be imposing their antiquated gender roles on their students, right? Or am I naive? Surely not.

    Tick Tock

    So what else is new? Did you know that certain colors of M&Ms are female and others are male? I never knew that! I guess the company also ran an image after the marriage equality ruling in 2015 that showed two female candies sitting on a bench and holding hands. The green and brown M&Ms are female, and now they’ve added purple to the category and are offering a feminist package of all-girl candies. I suppose it’s nice, but it’s a bit odd. Plus, I don’t like those colors as much as some others. Why can’t we be red?

    The Million Moms are upset with Turbo Tax, after a commercial showed two men walking down the aisle. “Even though homosexuality is unnatural, this advertisement is pushing the LGBTQ agenda,” they squealed. “An even greater concern is that the controversial commercial is airing when children are likely watching television.” I don’t know why, but I love reporting the outrage that emanates from the Million Moms. Their cartoonish primness is a refreshing change from the raw hostility we have to confront in the rest of the news.

     And finally, have you read about the “Tikker” watch that counts down how much time you have to live? I guess you fill out some forms about your age, health, habits and so forth and the thing figures out your likely life expectancy. It then ticks down the years, days and hours left to you so you can stop loafing around and start to appreciate being alive.

    I can’t imagine anything more disconcerting. Does this company not realize that human beings have an innate fear of death and survive by being able to compartmentalize their mortality and pretend to themselves that life goes on indefinitely?

    I’m pretty sure that my personal “Tikker” watch would indicate that I should have been dead for a year or two at least. It will probably just tick forward to tell me how long I’ve managed to survive beyond my natural end-date. I’m not getting one.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on January 12, 2023