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    Ann Rostow: Terrorists – One, Cleveland Pride: Zero

    1-Ann-RostowBy Ann Rostow

    Terrorists: One, Cleveland Pride: Zero

    I’m ashamed to tell you that I always wanted Donald Trump to win the GOP nomination because (obviously!) his candidacy would ensure that my Democrats would win the general election. Now, I feel chagrined by this unpatriotic, politically motivated desire. How could I have wished for such a risky contest? All I can do is beg the Fates to intervene on behalf of reason, sanity and justice. Just this once, Fates! After 1933, I think you owe us.

    I’m writing this column a little early again. It’s vacation and I’m at the beach, if you must know. Well, I’m not there this minute because I am devoting my time and energy to you, dear readers. But I could be, were it not for my professional obligations.

    Oh, did you hear that some Cleveland GLBT honchos cancelled their August 13 pride shebang this year because they decided it wasn’t safe enough after Orlando? Here’s another case of fear unnecessarily taking control over our lives, particularly given the fact that San Francisco and New York held their pride parades two weeks after Orlando without having fits of childlike trepidation. Some are calling for the head of Todd Saporito, CEO of Cleveland Pride, who issued the following rambling, nearly incoherent, excuse:

    “We have been entrusted by our community to create a secure parade and festival environment for our LGBTQ brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, aunts, uncles, friends and allies. Because of the changing social climate, Cleveland Pride did not have enough time to engage in the development of awareness programs and training that we believe is critical in today’s environment. Therefore, we regretfully cancelled our 28th annual parade, rally and festival this year.”

    Say what, Todd? “Changing social climate?” “Awareness programs and training?” Really? It’s a parade. A festival. We’ve been conducting these events all over the country every year for decades. Granted, there was a nutcase killer in Orlando. But that’s all the more reason to stand together, honor those victims and celebrate our community’s pride and strength. By the way, police confirmed there were no credible threats to the city of Cleveland or to the GLBT community, and you might recall that Cleveland hosted the GOP convention with no problem two weeks ago.

    I gather some other Cleveland gay leaders are planning to hold an event of some sort on August 13 without the help of the scaredy-cats at Cleveland Pride, so there’s that.

    You’re Fired!

    And what else is new, you ask? You’ll be excited to hear that we’ve finally gotten the ruling we’ve been waiting for in the lesbian workplace discrimination suit out of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit. Yes, I can hear your shout outs from here. “At last!” “Tell us, Ann, what did they say? Does Title VII protect gays and lesbians from bias on the job?”

    Um, actually I guess the answer is yes and no. According to the long-awaited opinion, the jurisprudence surrounding Title VII and gay civil rights is inconsistent and muddled and needs to be clarified pronto. On the other hand, the panel was hamstrung by prior case law in the Seventh Circuit, and was forced to rule against lesbian plaintiff Kimberly Hively, who was blocked from advancement in her job at a community college in Indiana.

    This case was argued last September, so (count with me) the opinion spent ten months on the drafting table. The lengthy wait led some observers to wonder whether the panel was wrestling with a decision in our favor despite the fact that they were virtually obliged by precedent to rule against us. And I guess, in the end, they were wrestling. Two of the judges noted that the Supreme Court has ruled that marriage equality is mandated by the Constitution, yet in many states–as the now-trite observation goes–you can get married on Sunday and fired on Monday.

    Adding to the illogic is the fact that the Supreme Court has ruled that sexual stereotyping is illegal under Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination in the workplace. You can’t fire a man for squealing, “Oh Snap!” or a woman for failing Makeup 101 (in theory), but if the worker is a lipstick lesbian or a manly gay man you can give them a pink slip in many states for no reason at all. Faced with this conundrum, courts have been all over the map to some extent on the scope of Title VII, while the federal government’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has said flatly that gays and lesbians should be covered under the 1964 law.

    In short, the whole thing is a mess that should be rectified by the Supreme Court, or perhaps in this case, the full bench of the Seventh Circuit, which has the authority to overturn its previous precedents. The panel spokeswoman Judge Ilana Rovner wrote:

    “It seems illogical to entertain gender non-conformity claims under Title VII where the non-conformity involves style of dress or manner of speaking, but not when the gender non-conformity involves the sine qua non of gender stereotypes—with whom a person engages in sexual relationships. And we can see no rational reason to entertain sex discrimination claims for those who defy gender norms by looking or acting stereotypically gay or lesbian (even if they are not), but not for those who are openly gay but otherwise comply with gender norms.”

    “We allow two women or two men to marry, but allow employers to terminate them for doing so. Perchance, in time, these inconsistencies will come to be seen as denying practical workability and will lead us to reconsider our precedent.”

    What Is Art?

    Hey, I could go on, but I won’t. Let’s just say that adding gays and lesbians to federal civil rights laws may be the most important step in our communal public policy agenda. Whether it’s done through the Equality Act pending in Congress (unlikely) or the courts (more likely), our movement’s goals will not be accomplished until the laws that ban discrimination in the workplace, in education, in housing and elsewhere are expanded to include GLBT Americans.

    Meanwhile, speaking of the courts, guess who’s taking us to the Supreme Court? None other than the guy who runs the Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado, Jack Phillips. You remember him, right? This bozo has been fighting the state of Colorado for years, arguing that he should have the right to refuse a bakery job for two gay grooms. So far, he’s been losing since Colorado is one of those states that protects us against discrimination in public accommodations.

    Now, he’s telling the High Court that he has an artistic right of free speech and should not be required to use his, um, special gifts in the service of others. In our legal system, we balance competing interests. Colorado’s interest in protecting consumers from bias will trump a baker’s general dislike of gays or blacks. That’s why Philips is now reaching for a higher excuse, based either on piety or artistry, which he hopes will prevail.

    I don’t buy it, frankly. The sketcher who does portraits at the Denver street fair can’t pick and choose his clients and he or she is more of an artist than Jack Phillips, in my view. Further, if