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    Ann Rostow: Seething Sapphic Septet “Came Out of Nowhere

    1-Ann-RostowBy Ann Rostow

    Seething Sapphic Septet “Came Out of Nowhere”

    Just when you thought we might be done with GLBT legal stories comes terrific news! The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has ruled that sexual orientation bias in the workplace is inherently illegal under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination. I know what you’re thinking. C’mon! Marriage equality is in the bag. Let’s go back to deranged killer lesbians and catching evangelical preachers in the park with their pants around their ankles!

    Oh, dear readers. If only it were that easy. Try googling “killer lesbians” these days and all you get is old news, like this snippet from the November, 2007, New York Post:

    “One of them was “slightly pretty,” so the freelance film director decided to say hi.

    Next thing he knew, he was encircled, beaten and knifed in the gut right there on a Greenwich Village sidewal—by seven bloodthirsty young lesbians.

    ‘The girls started coming out of nowhere,’ Dwayne Buckle told a Manhattan jury yesterday, describing the bizarre beat-down he suffered last summer, allegedly at the hands of a seething sapphic septet from Newark, N.J.

    ‘I felt like I was going to die.’”

    As for the rightwing hypocrite crew, there’s nothing new here either. These stories used to come to my cyber-doorstep, now I have dozens of headlines about, well, this week it’s the EEOC’s new interpretation of Title VII.

    And rightly so, because it is indeed big news. The Commission sets an influential standard for how courts review workplace bias cases under the half-century-old federal law that governs discrimination based on race, gender, religion, age and national origin.

    Title VII has been molded and expanded by years and years of court analysis in thousands of individual cases. Over this time, courts have determined, for example, that sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination. They have determined that prejudice based on gender stereotypes is impermissible. They have ruled that male on male sexual harassment is forbidden, when the harassment stems from gender roles. They have incorporated the concept of a “hostile work environment” into anti-bias law.

    The list goes on, but if you’re gay, you have not been covered by Title VII unless you could prove that you were fired or harassed, not based on being gay, but based on not conforming to gender stereotypes. In other words, some effeminate men or masculine women might make a claim under Title VII, but, in general, sexual orientation was not in itself a protected category.

    A couple of years ago, the EEOC formalized the increasingly accepted ban on gender stereotyping by ruling that trans bias was inherently an illegal form of sex discrimination. We found ourselves in the rare position where trans workers had more equality than regular old gay and lesbian employees. And as a result of that new policy, the EEOC led the charge by filing several trans discrimination suits on its own initiative.

    Now, the Commission, the agency charged with administering and enforcing Title VII, has ruled that sexual orientation is:

    “…inherently a ‘sex-based consideration,’ and an allegation of discrimination based on sexual orientation is necessarily an allegation of sex discrimination under Title VII…A complainant alleging that an agency took his or her sexual orientation into account in an employment action necessarily alleges that the agency took his or her sex into account.”

    The Commission’s new posture, assumed in the case of a federal air traffic control employee who was denied a promotion, does not mean we are automatically added to the list of those protected under federal law. But our arguments to that effect are now vastly more powerful. Remember that it is the EEOC that investigates and processes civil rights claims from the workplace, and it is the EEOC that allows claims to go forward in court. The Commission’s policies may not be binding on courts, but they are very persuasive. And as courts increasingly follow their guidelines, judicial precedents will pile up accordingly.

    I’d like us all to sing a song right about now. A fun song. A gay song!

    Sometimes a Great Notion

    Quick quick. I had to write something fast because my word count was stuck at “666.” Bad karma.

    Look, we need things like this EEOC breakthrough more than ever right now. We need them like I need an icy pineapple Margarita with a sugar rim, a desire that just popped into my head on this hot day like a brilliant idea from out of the blue. A little Los Abuelos, a little Cointreau, fresh pineapple juice, a squeeze of lime and an umbrella. A rainbow umbrella.

    For example, we need discrimination protection because, as it now stands, self-insured companies in most states are not required to offer workplace benefits to the spouses of gay couples. Yes, you read that right. Even with the right to marry now guaranteed by the Constitution, there is nothing in federal law that prevents a company from just saying no to health insurance for your husband or wife. Few companies would consider such a blatantly prejudiced position, but guess which ones might? Conservative companies, who put their hands together, gaze up into the sky and call on self-derived divine mandates that trump basic decency.

    Just the other day, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit reinstated a case against Obamacare, brought by a Missouri state legislator and his wife. The couple claimed that they were being “forced” to accept health insurance that included free contraception in violation of their religious beliefs. If a claim this tenuous is deemed worthy of litigation, why shouldn’t a company be allowed to “express their religious opposition to same-sex marriage” by denying benefits to married gays? As long as we lack federal protection against discrimination, the answer is “there’s no reason.”

    I’ve said this before, but remember that even the Supreme Court’s most recalcitrant justice, Samuel Alito, agreed that faith-based accommodations cannot involve violating civil rights laws. That’s great, as long as we’re covered under those laws, which we’re not.

    I read that GLBT activists are crafting a new piece of gay rights legislation that will supplant the Employment Nondiscrimination Act and offer broader protections in housing and public accommodation as well as in the workplace. On verra.

    Nazis? Really?

    Did you read about the gay baker who went to bat for all those Christian bakers who refuse to make our cakes? Jesse Bartholomew posted a video on Facebook that took issue with activists who have stood up to discrimination:

    “There’s no other bakers out there?” he asked. “It’s plain and simple: you are bullying someone, you are forcing someone, you are being a Nazi and forcing someone to bake a damn wedding cake for you when there are hundreds of other gays and lesbians that would gladly have your business. Shame on you.”

    First of all, few arguments are advanced by accusing one’s adversary of being a Nazi, unless he or she is an actual Nazi, like, for example, the little old man with the accent who lives alone down the street and can’t account for his whereabouts between 1939 and 1945. Second, no one forced anyone to actually make a cake. They sued them under state law for refusing service based on sexual orientation. Last, of course people will go to friendly wedding purveyors! No one wants the rightwing photographer at their wedding; no one wants the conservative Christian caterer spitting in the food at the reception. We just want accountability for those who break civil rights law at our expense. Shame on you, Mr. Bartholomew, for your dimwitted attack on your gay brothers and sisters, which by the way is being praised up and down the fringe right media.

    Meanwhile, don’t shed too many tears for those bankrupt bakers. Sweet Melissa’s Cakes (or whatever she’s called) has reportedly picked up several hundred thousand bucks in crowd funding money from her allies on the right. And I also read that the antigay pizza parlor in Indiana cashed $800,000 in donations, although I’m not sure I believe that.

    I still like the idea of green lighting discrimination as long as you post a large sign in your window and on your website saying clearly that, for religious reasons, you do not accept gay or lesbian customers. Have your cake. And enjoy the 20 percent of the public who will still do business with you.

    Oh, not really.

    Pathetic Scott

    I don’t want to go near the GOP primary race, but I have to mention Scott Walker, who told the press that the Boy Scout’s ban on gay scoutmasters was a good idea because it “protects children.” “Oops!” as Rick Perry would say. The creepy Wisconsin governor, who looks to me like one of the bad guys on Criminal Minds, quickly backtracked and explained that the ban protected children, not from predatory gay men, but from the debate over gay rights itself. Uh. Okay.

    I didn’t think the GOP candidate pool could get any slimier than it did last time around, but the Republicans have outdone themselves.

    So what else is new, you might ask? There’s a new gay gene study of 400 or so gay brothers, maybe 800, I forget. Anyway, it indicated again that gay men have similar irregularities in certain areas of their chromosomes. It shouldn’t matter one bit whether being gay is genetic. I think it is, but even if it’s not, sexual orientation should not be a moral issue, period.

    Personally, I was convinced by the ring finger test for lesbianism. You remember that, right? Lesbians have longer ring fingers than index fingers. Straight women have the reverse. Try it on your friends. It almost always works. Plus, there’s a physiological connection of some sort between hormones in the womb and finger length, so it’s not as random as it seems.

    Oh, and someone else has written yet another essay on polygamy, this one in the New York Times. Question: Of all your friends and acquaintances, have you ever met three people who were all in love with each other and maintained a household together for ten or twenty years? Five years? I’m sure there are a few anomalies out there. But hundreds of thousands? Where’s my Margarita?

    Freedom to Marry Happily Out of Business

    I’ve rung the bell for Myrtille several times, and, as usual, she has failed to appear. Just because she’s an imaginary maid servant, she believes she can come and go as she pleases and considers her duties voluntary at best. It’s infuriating. Jacques is just as bad. I asked for that Margarita two hours ago, and he claimed we were out of Cointreau and he had to run to the liquor store. But how long does that take? It’s ten minutes away, for God’s sake.

    So, Evan Wolfson, the head of Freedom to Marry, announced that his organization would wrap up operations after 12 years waging the fight to win marriage equality. Most organizations, particularly successful ones, can’t bring themselves to shut the doors even after institutional goals are met. Congratulations and admiration are due to Wolfson and his colleagues, who have posted a touching video in tribute to all of those who fought for, and finally won, the freedom to marry.

    And guess what, everyone? I stumbled upon a deranged lesbian item just in time! Annette Kielhurn, 57, of St. Petersburg, Florida, was arrested over the July 19th weekend after she attacked her ex-girlfriend with a dildo in front of police.

    Girlfriend Gamze Capaner-Ridley, 47, was retrieving her possessions from their shared home under police supervision. Earlier, Capaner-Ridley had charged Kielhurn with domestic violence. A fight broke out over a dress, which Kielhurn grabbed out of Capaner-Ridley’s hand. She then hit Capaner-Ridley in the face with a dildo, and was arrested for her troubles, charged with a misdemeanor and released on $500 bail. Kielhurn previously served three years in prison after being found passed out in a car that contained 25 kilos of cocaine. I know, I know. It would make more sense if she had been wide-awake, talking about the great idea she had for an Internet start-up.

    Finally! Jacques is back!