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    Ann Rostow: Silver Bells, Silver Bells

    By Ann Rostow–

    Silver Bells, Silver Bells

    Should we start with the court fights over GLBT discrimination in adoption and foster services? The gay rights protests in Poland? The impact of the High Court’s Title VII ruling? Or how about the decision out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, which I put in my notes as “10th Cct” but the details of which I have completely forgotten?

    No! We will begin instead with news that Lifetime will add gay plots to its Christmas movies this year. One of the first examples of this farsighted new policy is a movie based in Milwaukee called The Christmas Set Up.

    According to Lifetime, the plot centers on a New York corporate lawyer named Hugo who takes his best friend Madelyn back to his home town to spend Christmas with his mother Kate. Kate is in charge of the town’s holiday festivities, and she is also an inveterate matchmaker who knows that Hugo still has a crush on his high school buddy Patrick. As it turns out, Patrick, who is now a successful tech developer in Silicon Valley, is also home for Christmas, so Kate arranges for the two men to meet again, and indeed, the chemistry is still there. But then, Patrick is offered a big promotion to a London-based position! What should he do?

    I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to find out. What’s more important? Lasting love with your soulmate? Or some corporate sinecure in a distant metropolis? And what about Madelyn? Surely Kate has identified an appropriate partner for Patrick’s BFF. Perhaps the widower rancher with the eight-year-old son who is helping out with the lighting for the Christmas Eve carols show. And what about Kate herself? She’s so busy fixing up other people that she hasn’t recognized that her neighbor, the wise doctor who lost his wife three years ago to cancer, sees her as more than a friend.

    Hey, it’s progress of a sort. I can’t wait for One Million Moms to get their hands on it.

    Plastic Trolls Are Asking for It

    Speaking of One Million Moms, I read a story about troll dolls doing something naughty, and although it wasn’t the Moms complaining, I immediately assumed that the trolls were innocuous toys and the conscientious objectors were lunatic purity activists. I looked forward to making fun of them in these pages, and to further my research I watched a video, presented by what seemed to be a sanctimonious young mother up in arms about these threats to innocent children. 

    Oh my God, you guys! It’s true! These trolls have indeed crossed the line. When you press their stomach, they giggle and make other cute noises just like the box says. What the box doesn’t mention is that they also have a little button right between their legs. When you press that button, they make little soft sounds like “oh oh” and other vaguely lewd noises that are qualitatively different from the stomach giggles. Who would engineer this perverse feature on a toy geared towards five-year-old girls? Did Ghislaine Maxwell consult on the project? 

    Hasbro is now taking the lascivious trolls off the market and will offer replacement dolls to disturbed customers. Google: “Trolls World Tour Giggle and Sing Poppy,” for the must-see video.

    Whither Bostock?

    Now it’s time for something more serious. It was a great day in June when the Supreme Court handed down a 6–3 ruling that said discrimination against gays and transgenders was a form of sex discrimination, which, in turn, is outlawed throughout federal law. You don’t need to be a logician to deduce that this means GLBT bias is forbidden in every context that outlaws sex bias. While the Bostock case involved the workplace protections in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, sex discrimination is also banned in the Fair Housing Act, in public schools through Title IX, and many other places. 

    Think also of all the state and local civil rights laws that routinely toss “sex” into the list that includes “race” and “religion.” Now, even though those lawmakers did not include “sexual orientation” or “gender identity,” our community is arguably covered by those statutes. 

    But what if no one pays any attention to the High Court’s ruling? The Department of Justice under Barr and Trump has yet to revise its anti-GLBT policies. Since other federal agencies and cabinet departments refer to the Department of Justice on matters of law, this unexplained stalling strategy has led the rest of the administration to also hold off on updating the scope of federal civil rights law. 

    You know the expression: “Don’t make a federal case out of it?” It refers to the fact that a federal case is a lengthy ordeal that is best avoided. But if the government simply ignores the implications of the High Court’s decision, a federal lawsuit becomes the only avenue of redress for victims of GLBT bias. (The easiest solution, of course, is to remove Mr. Barr and Mr. Trump from office on January 20.)

    On the positive side, thanks to the High Court, we know that a federal case is extremely likely to succeed. On Friday, August 7, a 2–1 panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eleventh Circuit ruled in favor of a transgender high school student, Andrew Cody Adams, who was denied access to the bathroom at his Ponte Vedra, Florida, school. The majority, two Obama appointees, relied on Bostock. Bostock, wrote Judge Beverly Martin, “confirmed that workplace discrimination against transgender people is contrary to law … . Neither should this discrimination be tolerated in schools.”

    As for the aforementioned Tenth Circuit case, I conveniently forgot the details because they were complicated. The plaintiffs were older female employees of a casino who sued under Title VII and under a separate law that protects against age discrimination. Their lawsuit argued that they were fired not because they were women or over forty, but because of both characteristics operating at once in a way that disadvantaged older women in particular. The Tenth Circuit relied on Justice Gorsuch’s reasoning in Bostock to rule that such intersectional cases could proceed as long as the plaintiff was targeted by the sex-based bias.  

    Tunisian LGBT Soap Operas!

    By the way, what’s the story with Ellen? I considered writing about her, but I can’t seem to drum up a sufficient level of personal interest. I saw something about Ellen being invited to someone’s birthday party, or maybe not being invited, or maybe asking why she wasn’t invited when, in fact, she was. And some of her staff are cold. And she’s not always so nice, even though she urges everyone else to be kind. Is that all there is?

    And speaking of not nice people, get a load of Merritt Corrigan, a Trumpy-Trump appointee to a White House liaison post at the U.S. Agency for International Development. Corrigan has denounced gays and lesbians, condemned same-sex marriage, called for a Christian patriarchy, and suggested that boys and men are superior to girls and women. Appointed to her position in June, she wasted no time in getting into trouble, tweeting that her new agency is anti-Christian and worse.

    “For too long, I’ve remained silent as the media has attacked me for my Christian beliefs, which are shared by the majority of Americans,” said one tweet. “Let me be clear: Gay marriage isn’t marriage. Men aren’t women. U.S.-funded Tunisian LGBT soap operas aren’t America First.”

    Under pressure from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Corrigan’s boss at USAID fired Corrigan on August 3, at which point she threatened to call a news conference with far-right conspiracy theorists Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman. According to Politico, White House aides were less than pleased by her response. Wrote Politico: “The news conference announcement raised eyebrows among current and former Trump officials, with one former senior Trump official saying in a text message: ‘Who does she think she is holding a press conference, suddenly forcing the White House to answer questions about a low level staffer with outside the mainstream opinions?’”

    In a weird twist, Corrigan then claimed that she was manipulated by others and did not send the tweets to begin with.

    “I would like to apologize,” she wrote in a statement to Politico on August 4. “Especially to the people who have been affected or hurt by the messages sent from my Twitter account, and the claims made in my name on Monday. I did NOT send these messages, and while I vehemently protested about them being sent in my name, my devices were not in my control.” 

    Corrigan said she will be “working hard to right the wrongs that were done in my name, and I pray that in time I can prove myself to be a reliable person despite the attempts to ruin me—the rationale for which I am still unclear.”

    Say what?

    Poland Needs Therapy Llama

    By the way, I’ve stopped italicizing court cases because I can’t quite figure out when to do so and when not to do so. Hey. It saves a few keystrokes. 

    Over in Poland, GLBT activists have been protesting around the country after the arrest of a transgender woman named Margot, who draped statues with rainbow flags to challenge the far-right regime of Andrzej Duda. Four dozen others were arrested, but eventually released, while Margot (Malgorzata Szutowicz) will be held for up to two months pending a range of charges against her. Meanwhile, six towns in the country have deemed themselves GLBT-free zones. In response, the powers that be in the European Union have suspended some funding associated with connecting local communities to all six. According to The New York Times, the finding is minimal, but the symbolism is significant. 

    Speaking of protests, I have recently learned about Ceasar McCool, The No-Drama Llama, who had been attending demonstrations in Portland and elsewhere to spread serenity and comfort the participants. Police and protestors alike have lined up to pet the six-year-old Argentinean champion, who has participated in numerous actions around the northwest, giving emotional support hugs and sharing his calming spirit. 

    “I don’t care how big, how staunch, how intense that somebody is—it could be a big marcher in total riot gear, and he will come up and give Caesar a big hug,” said Larry McCool, 66, who runs the Mystic Llama farm in Oregon. “It’s all I can do to just keep him from snuggling.”

    Next Up At SCOTUS

    Finally, New York School of Law professor Art Leonard has analyzed a court case out of New York, where the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit has reinstated a lawsuit lodged by an adoption services organization, New Hope Family Services, against the state. New York authorities aim to shut New Hope’s adoption operation down since New Hope will only consider straight married adoptive parents. But the appellate judges ruled that the scope of state law leaves room for a trial court to consider New Hope’s claim of religious discrimination. Although New York’s Office of Children and Family Services has a non-discrimination policy that includes gay parents and singles, the judges felt it was not clear whether or not state law gave the Office the authority to compel obedience in the face of religious objections.

    The case echoes our next big Supreme Court showdown, between the city of Philadelphia and Catholic Social Services, which has been dropped by Philly’s foster care program due to anti-GLBT discrimination. By contrast, New Hope does not do business with New York, so it does not directly violate any state rules on contractors. It does, obviously, have to work with the Office of Children and Family in order to arrange adoptions. Both cases ask when or whether a religious actor can ignore a neutral law of general applicability, and since the High Court will hear the Philadelphia case this fall, it’s likely that the New Hope case will rise or fall on the justices’ decision.

    I want my own therapy llama.

    Published on August 13, 2020