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    Ann Rostow… Roll Back Tide

    annboxBy Ann Rostow

    Roll Back Tide

    On Monday, March 7, the Supreme Court issued an unsigned opinion confirming the parental rights of a lesbian mother. The case was presented to the justices for consideration by the National Center for Lesbian Rights, but instead of accepting the matter for review, the Court simply ruled on the merits.

    In fact, the case was open and shut. Lesbian mother VL adopted her three kids, conceived by partner EL with an anonymous donor, through courts in Georgia. Fast-forward several years and the women were broken up and fighting over custody issues in Alabama. Last year, astonishingly, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled that the Georgia adoptions were issued in error and stripped VL of visitation and any other parental rights.

    There’s no need to be a lawyer to understand that one state may not dissolve an adoption, or any other routine court judgment, issued by a sister state. Absent such comity, we would no longer be a nation, but an ad hoc association of fifty separate jurisdictions.

    The NCLR immediately asked the High Court to suspend the Alabama ruling pending appeal, a request that was quickly granted. Now, the Court has thankfully confirmed that the Constitution’s Full Faith and Credit Clause does not have a gay exception.

    In a way, you could argue that the outcome is no big deal. Alabama’s machinations were so obviously unconstitutional that the Court had no other option. On the other hand, few could have imagined that the Alabama Supremes would have issued such an outrageous decision in the first place. The saga reminds us that we must remain constantly on guard for antigay aberrations despite our continued progress in the courts.

    Meanwhile, in better news from the worst state supreme court in the country, the Alabama Supreme Court has finally acknowledged that equality is the law of the land, dismissing a lawsuit that fruitlessly aimed to maintain a state ban on same-sex marriage. Thanks a lot, Alabama! In doing so, narcissist Chief Justice Roy Moore could not resist preening with a lengthy opinion lambasting the High Court’s marriage opinion for the record.

    Dressing Down

    There’s nothing really “fun” on my news list this week, which makes me a little sad. Mean people, bad laws, violent locker room attacks, anti-gay stickers in school. Where’s the rainbow? Where’s the “gay”?

    Here’s something sort of fun. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will hear arguments this month on an Equal Protection claim from a gay guy who was nailed in San Diego for violating a decency ordinance of some sort by wearing a skimpy leather “kilt” to the 2011 Pride celebration. Will Walters argues that the city ignores the thong-sporting gals on the beach, but comes down hard on gay men, effectively subjecting them to a double standard. Hey, I don’t have to know anything about the case to instinctively decide that Will is right and San Diego is wrong. I saw the kilt in a photo online. Compared to the outfits on Folsom Street, it looks like dinner attire at Downton Abbey.

    Speaking of Downton, I was not crazy about the end of the show, where instead of nuanced plot and clever dialogue we were treated to a rapid fire series of life-altering decisions that made my head spin. Plus, I hate the guy that Mary finally married. She grieves for two seasons, agonizes over poor Tony and winds up with this sulky undeveloped character for no apparent reason. Where did that come from? Oh, you haven’t seen it? Well, don’t let me stop you.

    Mel and I also watched all 13 new episodes of House of Cards, and all I can say is…(Calm yourself. I wouldn’t do that to you).

    Red State Badge of Courage

    Did you read last week that the Republican governor of South Dakota, Dennis Daugaard, vetoed the anti-trans student bathroom bill? We were alarmed to see this measure pass both houses and reach Daugaard’s desk, or at least I was. I assumed that a Republican governor of a rural red state would sign the damn thing in a hot minute. Instead, Daugaard invited a group of transmen and transwomen to discuss the proposed law, and nixed the bill as unnecessary and likely to lead to federal litigation.

    Indeed, left unsaid in much of the reporting around the many anti-trans school bills now lurking in the legislatures is the plain fact that the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights now considers trans-bias (and gay bias) to be against the law under Title IX. That means that there’s a major lawsuit waiting for any state or any school that decides to force transboys into the girls’ room and vice versa.

    But even if a veto is therefore the practical choice for any governor, I was still impressed that Daugaard actually talked to some individuals who put a human face on the issue, and that he bucked his conservative colleagues by killing the measure.

    Oh, there’s more. I have a lot of state names scrawled on my list with question marks. “Georgia?” (What’s happening to that religious freedom bill that got sent back to the house?) “Tennessee?” (I think a bad trans bill has a subcommittee hearing.) “Missouri?” (We are filibustering a potential antigay ballot measure.) You get the picture. Everyone’s standing on the ledge, but in this column we will wait to see if they jump, fall, or back away.

    That said, you really should check out Missouri to find out what happened as we went to press.

    Loopholes Work in Our Favor

    I do have one excellent piece of news that involves a state legislature. You may recall that Arkansas passed a bill a year ago that forbids localities from passing anti-discrimination measures “on a basis not contained in state law.” This nasty piece of work appeared to preempt gay or trans rights bills, considering that Arkansas’ main anti-bias protections do not include sexual orientation or gender identity.

    Well, on March 1, a judge ruled that Fayetteville’s GLBT rights ordinance does not fall afoul of the state ban. Why? According to New York Law School legal eagle Art Leonard, the judge noted that state recognizes both sexual orientation and gender identity in laws regarding bullying and domestic violence. Ergo, both categories are, in fact, “contained in state law.” So there! Suuuuuweeee Hog!

    I don’t know if Arkansas lawmakers will redraft the law or whether other judges will follow this same rationale, but for now it brings us cheer. Also, it’s a reminder that some of these less-expansive civil rights efforts–let’s say, language that includes gays in a domestic violence law–can have an impact beyond a relatively narrow context.

    I should add that the original state law arguably falls afoul of the Constitution by denying us access to the political system in much the same way Colorado’s antigay Amendment 2 did in the mid-1990s. Amendment 2, in turn, was struck down by the Supreme Court in Romer v Evans. But then again, unlike the Arkansas law with its ambiguous language, Amendment 2 specifically banned gay civil rights laws throughout the state.

    What Time Is It in Bermuda?

    I’m watching political coverage on TV with the sound off and I have to say that Marco Rubio is looking haunted and anxious. It’s easier to notice if you’re not actually listening to him spin his fantastical campaign scenarios. I hate the way he works his mouth around and chews his lip and swallows for no reason. It’s like he has an invisible cud.

    Oh, I read that Queen Elizabeth’s entourage is annoyed that she was accused of opposing marriage equality in Great Britain. We are assured that she felt nothing of the sort and has always supported gay rights, which seems quite true from everything else I’ve read.

    I just got lost in royal cyberspace where I read that the late Queen Mother enjoyed a glass of gin and Dubonnet before lunch. Hmmm. I haven’t had lunch. I have some gin. I don’t have any Dubonnet, but I do have half a bottle of Pineau des Charentes. It’s very tempting to experiment.

    News flash! Further research informs us that our hero and favorite mixologist, Rachel Maddow, recommends a Pineau Martini, made from two parts gin and one part Pineau des Charantes. She says nothing about waiting for the cocktail hour.

    Do I even have a choice?

    Sticker Shock

    You know, I was reserving a decent chunk of column inches for the appalling story of the football players in a North Philly high school who celebrated “No Gay Thursday” by assaulting a boy in the locker room with a broomstick.

    Actually, I was thinking about this exact story earlier when I bemoaned the lack of festive news topics before me. It depressed me. Now, I make a command decision to leave it to you, Dear Reader, to look up the details for yourself, if you wish. I don’t have the heart for it. And no, I have not had a Pineau Martini! This is a sober judgment.

    I will say this, however. There’s a school in Indio, California, Shadow Hills High, where about a dozen students put stickers on their ID cards that displayed a rainbow in a circle with a slash through it. At first the school authorities said there was nothing they could do about it. Later, they changed their minds and told the kids to remove the stickers until they could decide on a policy.

    So, I was thinking that the school should allow the stickers based on the students’ First Amendment rights, under the assumption that the stickers would not cause disruption or threaten campus safety in any way.

    But now I’m wondering: “No Gay Thursdays? Really?” Plus, I gather that someone put a sticker on the window of the Gay Straight Alliance advisor’s classroom, a move that crosses the line between expressing an opinion and rank intimidation.

    Shadow Hills has a dress code that prohibits “racially or socially inflammatory material,” and it’s clear that schools can ban Confederate or Nazi gear in order to preempt conflict. Does the sticker rise to this level? And if the stickers are banned, can the school also tell gay kids they can’t wear Pride t-shirts? Normally, I’d say work it out through the marketplace of ideas. But if I were running that North Philly high school, I’d put an end to antigay messaging, tell the gay kids to wear what they like and let the chips fall where they may.

    Should the same be true in Indio? Or must they wait until the Shadow Hills football team starts a new weekly tradition? I’m honestly not sure.

    GLAD They’re Not GLBTQLAD

    Okay. I tried the drink and, with all due respect to the Queen Mother and Rachel Maddow, it’s most unpalatable. I drowned it in fresh-squeezed orange juice and ice and it’s better now, but I’m not recommending the concoction. And I think it’s 5 pm in Bermuda, by the way.

    I owe an apology to GLAD, which I condemned last time for over-extending its acronym. First of all, GLAD, which used to stand for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, is not changing the acronym. They will still be “GLAD,” but this will now stand for GLBTQ Legal Advocates and Defenders. It’s called a “nested acronym.” Who knew?

    Second, for the record, the “Q” does stand for Queer, not Questioning, so I take back everything I said about the “Questioning” category. Also, I do understand why someone would identify as “queer” rather than select one of the 20th-Century stalwarts: gay, lesbian or bisexual. In the not too distant future, these will sound as anachronistic as “invert” or “tribad.”

    Third, even though I thought the “L” for Legal was redundant for one of our country’s most accomplished impact litigation outfits, I am assured that the word helped distinguish GLAD from the GLAAD. There was no need, in my view, but there is a more important reason for me to support the “L.” Without the “L,” the nested acronym would be “GAD,” so it must be added in order for GLAD to remain GLAD–which is all I really care about in the end.

    Oh God, it’s Rubio again. I need a decent drink.