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    Ann Rostow: Houston, We Have a Problem

    By Ann Rostow–

    Houston, We Have a Problem

    My wife is having a six-hour back surgery while I’m supposed to be writing this column, so forgive me if my prose is less sparkling than usual. It’s distracting to think about. Every hour I get a little text that says “patient is still in surgery,” which passes for an update from the Captain Obvious in charge of hospital communications. I remember a previous operation where they sent me encouraging messages like “she’s doing really well!” And “everything is going great!” Would that be so difficult in this instance?

    I have a lot of appellate court news, including a transgender victory out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit, of all places, where a split panel ruled that a transgender sheriff’s deputy should have been insured for bottom surgery. The deputy, Anna Lange, a 15-year veteran of the Houston County Sheriff Department, sued under Title VII’s ban on discrimination in the workplace. And for those of you who were wondering why the Eleventh Circuit was dispensing justice in Texas, this particular Houston County is in Georgia. Houston, Texas, in turn, is in Harris County and is covered by the Fifth Circuit.

    I suppose even more of you are wondering how and why one of the most conservative courts in the nation ruled in favor of a trans woman. The answer is that Ms. Lange and her Lambda Legal attorneys lucked into an Obama nominee and a Clinton nominee, who outvoted their Trump nominee colleague on the panel. If this case goes to the full court, the outcome would be uncertain. I’m pretty sure the full Eleventh Circuit has a rightward tilt.

    Meanwhile, I have to note that this little county, with all of 1,500 people on its healthcare system, paid well over a million dollars in legal fees to fight the addition of transgender employee services. An expert cited by Pro Publica guessed that the cost of adding trans operations would have come to about $10 grand per year, so these bozos paid well over a century’s worth of trans healthcare costs in a losing effort to “save money,” which was their stated excuse for denying the benefits.

    Fix For Fetid Footwear

    I think I’ve commented before on the mysterious click bait links that urge you to do weird things like put a playing card in your gas tank door, or put tea bags in your shoes overnight. I’ve been checking lately and I just learned that the tea bag “hack” is a supposedly clever way to make your shoes smell better.

    “This solution is much cheaper than all those fancy shoe deodorants,” writes the sort of person who is paid to write on these sorts of websites. “Besides, they tend to run out very quickly. The cheapest tea will work just as well, instead.” 

    Say what? “Fancy shoe deodorants?” What the hell are they talking about? Not only have I never heard of shoe deodorants, but I have certainly never heard of fancy ones that are expensive and run out very quickly. Who would get that product? I’ve heard of odor eaters, but those are things you wear in your shoes as you are walking around. Surely, we’re not being encouraged to wear tea bags in our shoes during our average day, are we? And finally, I’m a coffee girl but I like a cup of tea every now and again. What a waste it would be to toss perfectly good tea bags into our shoes, even “the cheapest tea.”   

    Wait, let’s do one more “life hack” as our current cyber alleyway has dubbed itself. “We’ve all been there,” moans our narrator with (am I imagining it?) a little galpal eyeroll in solidarity. “We get to the grocery store with a huge list of groceries to purchase, but alas, no quarter for the shopping cart! What are we to do, carry our purchases by hand like savages, or skip the shopping altogether?” 

    Honey? Where do you live? Because there ain’t no coin-operated grocery carts in my neck of the woods. But just in case we find ourselves on the horns of this dilemma, here’s a tip to the rescue. “Use the top end of that simple metal key you have lying around! Turns out these handy keys don’t just open mailboxes and gate locks; they open shopping cart locks, too! Talk about two for the price of one.” 

    But, but … I’m stuck here in the grocery store without even a damned quarter for the high-tech shopping carts, and you’re suggesting that I have simple metal keys “lying around”? Not only that, but you’re telling me to jam my simple metal key into a slot that’s designed for a quarter, possibly damaging the key and/or the cart mechanism? 

    Oh, and since when did savages carry around grocery items in their hands? I thought they were out hunting or fetching edible plants. 

    Our Favorite Appellate Court

    It seems I have the ability to squander many words and minutes on parsing websites and television commercials instead of discussing, let’s say, yet another good ruling out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit! 

    The Fourth Circuit recently ruled in favor of a trans girl who wanted to run track in middle school, and followed that up by ordering North Carolina and Kentucky to cover transgender healthcare in their various state insurance systems. Now, they have sent some conservative parents from Montgomery County, Maryland, home crying after telling them that, no, they cannot have an injunction against their school reading programs based on their religious inclinations. 

    “At this early stage,” wrote Judge G. Steven Agee for the two-judge majority, “given the Parents’ broad claims, the very high burden required to obtain a preliminary injunction, and the scant record before us, we are constrained to affirm the district court’s order denying a preliminary injunction.” Judge Agee, who was appointed by George W Bush, was joined by a Biden judge, while a Trump judge dissented. Obviously, from what Judge Agee wrote, there could be many twists and turns ahead as the litigation continues.

    Meanwhile, although we have been enamored of the Fourth Circuit and all its wonders in recent times, we note with disfavor that a panel recently ruled against one of those gay teachers who got booted out of a Catholic school based on the “ministerial exception,” a legal sinkhole that allows churchy employers to ignore federal workplace discrimination law and chuck anyone out on their ass if they’re not god-fearing enough for their Catholic tastes. 

    It makes sense, of course, for churches to be able to “discriminate” when picking a pastor or a religious instructor. But this exception is regularly being extended to cover all sorts of employees who have nothing to do with religion whatsoever. A French teacher at a religious school, a cafeteria worker at a church-based hospital, I’m making up these examples because I don’t feel like checking the underlying facts of this latest case, but the point is that the ministerial exception has gone haywire. I think the Seventh Circuit has dealt with several of these school cases in the Chicago area. I should check.

    Shall I check? 

    Let’s check another time.

    Kick Butt, Chiefs

    I should mention that my extended family of Jayhawk and Chiefs fans is distressed, as I am personally, by the aberrant behavior of Chief’s kicker Harrison Butker, who delivered a stunning commencement speech at some right-wing religious college the other day. I’m guessing you already read about his twenty-minute oration, calling out degenerates like you and me, praising homemaking and having children as women’s highest calling, telling men to be “unapologetic in your masculinity … [fight] against the cultural emasculation of men … do hard things, never settle for what is easy.”

    I’m assuming that the “cultural emasculation of men” includes things like respecting women, taking on an equal share of household responsibilities, co-parenting, expressing emotion in a healthy manner, and similar travesties. 

    As for the doing hard things, it’s a Kennedy-esque line but I don’t mean that in a good way. I’ve never understood that quote about going to the moon and doing the other things “not because they are easy but because they are hard.” That just makes no sense. We aimed to go to the moon for science and exploration, not “because it was hard.” Likewise, there are many occasions to take an easy route to a goal and indeed that is often a better strategy in my book. 

    “Hmmm. I see there’s a direct flight to Paris and back for $500. Oh, and here’s a nice little hotel on the Seine for a reasonable price.”

    “But wait! Why not stop in Newark and go through Amsterdam for $1,650. And I can stay at a youth hostel in St. Cloud that takes cash only. It’s much harder this way!”

    But back to Butker. We all hate him now. I asked my friend Jill how we will feel when he lines up a field goal on behalf of our favorite team. If we don’t need the points, Jill says she will root for him to miss. But if we’re down by one? Tough call. My wife Mel believes the Chiefs will dump him. He’s a great kicker, but Travis and Taylor aren’t going to be happy about teaming up with this narrowminded cretin. And I’m guessing Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid are more than capable of manning up and doing the hard thing, like getting rid of their kicker. 

    Did you know, by the way, that NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell’s brother is gay? Put that in your pipe and smoke it, Harrison.

    And Finally

    Let’s see what else. A couple dozen states are suing the Biden administration over the “new” interpretation of federal law that brings the definition of sex discrimination in line with, um, the U.S. Supreme Court. I’m sure I’ll encounter this story down the road, probably over and over again, but I don’t have the stomach for it right now. Justice Gorsuch ruled definitively that sex discrimination covers gay and trans bias. The vote was 6–3 and four years have since gone by. So, the various red states are saying, what? That Gorsuch is wrong? That Gorsuch’s opinion only referred to workplace bias, while sex discrimination in housing or education remains tightly defined? It’s a merry-go-round of litigation and after a while even the most interested amateur legal observer like myself becomes exasperated.

    And throws up her hands! I am now in an endless wait for the recovery process, but you’ll be happy to know that Mel’s operation went well and she is off somewhere taking fun drugs while I make use of a makeshift countertop here in the surgery waiting lounge where I will spend another hour or so killing time. Oh, and my back hurts from using this computer at a bad angle so there’s that. If this goes on for another ten years, I’ll be the one having surgery.

    Thank heavens I have my fabulous wine purse, which I think I’ve told you about in prior columns. It dispenses a bottle of wine through a hidden tap that emerges from a little flap. Otherwise, it looks like a very nice handbag (compliments of my daughter-in-law, Sheena). I’m drinking a pretty nice white Burgundy. Just a no name wine, but anything in the white Burgundy realm is awfully good. I am also halfway through a four-pack of Milano cookies, so all in all I can’t complain.

    But I think I’d like to complain anyway. 

    And before I leave you, keep an eye out for Queer Planet, a documentary on gay animals coming to Peacock in June. Looks like a cross between must-see-TV and a tiresome way to kill an evening. I suppose we’ll check it out, but I had a little fit the other day and may have canceled some of our streaming options. 

    I felt suddenly as if I had lost control of entertainment subscriptions. I was paying twice for stuff, once on Amazon and once as a direct subscriber. One of our services added Showtime and went up to $11 a month all on its own. And Apple Pay was dinging us all the time for $2.99 or $.99 or $1.09. What for? Who knows? I just cancelled the card and cancelled some other things so we’ll see what happens. It’s possible that Peacock may have found itself on the chopping block. Would I resubscribe just to watch queer animals? Another tough question. I will let you know.

    GLBT Fortnight in Review
    Published on May 23, 2024