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    Ann Rostow: My Time of Day

    By Ann Rostow

    My Time of Day

    I’m up early this morning watching Mika and Joe, to my continuing and profound irritation. Can these two talkaholics get smugger if they tried? Every show starts with an oh my God can you believe this roll of the eyes and big sigh from Mika, followed perhaps by a sanctimonious speech by Joe, or maybe a vignette of faux confusion. “Wait, Mika. I don’t understand. Are you telling me Donald Trump’s lawyer has his own lawyer? I don’t get it … .” Then there are the dumb inside jokes about the various guests or the show’s technicians: “Alex said he’s going to kill Barnacle if he wears that tie again!” This is not to mention Joe’s boorish habit of deliberately starting a new monologue just as Mika announces a break.

    Perhaps you’re wondering why I put myself through the unpleasantness to begin with. I’m a political junkie and it’s five in the morning, that’s why. It’s like asking me why I’m drinking pinot grigio out of a box at lunchtime. It was all I could find.

    Oh, and am I the only one who thinks Jim Comey is a sanctimonious dipstick, redeemed only somewhat due to his status as a Trump irritant? The man cost us the election, people! For no reason. Egomaniac puffin. 

    There She Is…

    Deep breath. I’m sorry for the rant. I go in and out of focus these days, some days drilling down on the latest dirt and other days letting the news swirl around in a haze. Today, we drill bien sur! But first, I had a double take at the headline: “Former Miss America Weds Girlfriend.” I’ve been covering the picturesque GLBT community for a couple of decades now and I feel sure that I would have remembered a lesbian Miss America. 

    Apparently, however, this Miss America became gay years after winning the pageant in 2005. Or at least she married a man and divorced him prior to opening the closet doors or discovering her true nature. Deirdre Downs also became a doctor and was a finalist for a Rhodes scholarship, so I’d say she’s had a busy decade or so since donning the crown. 

    I’d be remiss not to mention that former Miss Missouri, Erin O’Flaherty, was the first openly lesbian Miss America contestant a couple of years ago. And also, I read in the press that the Miss America organization sent a congratulatory tweet to Deirdre Downs and her wife, attorney Abbott Jones. That’s nice.

    Sometimes, the more things change, the more different they get, thankfully.

    Play Misty For Me

    I just paused to join the live waiting game that many of us have been playing over at Scotusblog on the mornings that we anticipate the High Court may issue an opinion in a pending case. Of course, we—you and I—are waiting for the Masterpiece Cakeshop opinion. It’s not really due yet, given that some earlier-argued cases have yet to be announced. But still, we check. No luck this morning.

    I recommend that you check out the site just before 10 am Eastern on the days when opinions are expected. As you know, when Masterpiece comes, it will be a gay rights (or wrongs) blockbuster. And no, I won’t rehash the legal details this week.

    You’re welcome! 

    Down another news side street, I just read that four baboons escaped from a research facility near San Antonio by pushing a large barrel against the fence and climbing over. The clever simians were all caught and relocated elsewhere within the grounds. A spokesperson for the Texas Biomedical Research Institute says that the institute’s numerous baboons “have aided” in the development of numerous drugs for “conditions like heart disease, diabetes, obesity and osteoporosis.” Yes, I’m sure they’ve been very “helpful,” poor creatures. RIP, fellas.

    I know! That had nothing to do with anything, but I could not help but envision the baboons in my mind’s eye carefully rolling the barrel into position and clambering their way to freedom. I could picture the evil scientists in their white coats and imagine the security cameras that scanned the enclosure. I could see the men scanning the four-screen panels. 

    “There. Doctor Bridges. Over by those trees. It’s Misty.”

    “That’s Misty all right. Call your men, Captain. Dodger and Maggie can’t be far.”

    Run Misty, run! I call out in my head to the frightened animal. But alas, it’s too late. At least my fantasy provides me with an idea for a sub-headline.

    Sue … Whee Hog!

    I was just getting the details on our electoral victory in Anchorage, Alaska—a major story—when I got sidetracked yet again. Do you recall when the Arkansas Supreme Court attempted to block one of two married lesbian parents from their child’s birth certificate? The case was one of several post-marriage equality anomalies that were brought to the Supreme Court’s attention and rectified by the justices without further ado. In the Arkansas case, the High Court didn’t bother with briefs or hearings. They simply ordered the Arkansas Supremes to revise their decision in line with Obergefell, the marriage ruling that had been issued months before their insulting birth certificate nonsense. 

    The Hog State brought its documents policy in line with constitutional law as instructed, but when it came time for the winning lawyers to get a check, as is the rule in such civil rights cases, the Arkansas Supreme Court said no, withholding over $200,000 in fees from a number of difference legal groups. The coalition has now asked the U.S. Supreme Court to give Arkansas yet another rap on the knuckles, even though the High Court is not in the habit of interfering in the nitty gritty of billing disputes. 

    The reason civil rights victors get their attorney’s fees repaid is that, absent such a scheme, only the rich would be able to take principled stands in court. If Arkansas is allowed to get away with these deadbeat antics, it could set an unfortunate precedent for the next set of Little Rock civil rights lawyers. 

    Thanks, Anchorage!

    As for Anchorage, I hadn’t realized that the April 3 referendum on transgender rights was the first public vote in our country that focused solely on gender identity. You may remember the jaw-dropping 2015 defeat in Houston, when voters rejected a citywide civil rights ordinance that had previously seemed innocuous, even popular. The ordinance, that protected everyone based on race and other factors, was repealed after a trans-phobic campaign based solely on the logistics of public bathrooms. The shocking results, 61 to 39, lifted the spirits of cultural conservatives, and led directly to attacks on transgender men and women from North Carolina onward.

    Those efforts have had mixed results—the North Carolina bathroom bill, effectively banning transgender citizens from using public facilities, boomeranged, costing the state millions in lost revenue, boycotts and bad publicity, and also leading to the election of a new governor. That North Carolina example, in turn, dissuaded many state legislatures from entertaining bathroom bills of their own, or passing them. But in Anchorage, we saw a public vote on the matter for the first time since Houston. This time, with transgender rights front and center, the American Civil Liberties Union and allies took the opposition on full bore and won, 52–47. 

    It’s a good sign, because the issue isn’t going away. There’s a statewide civil rights repeal set for November in Massachusetts. (Surely that can’t pass?) And conservatives are still focused on bathrooms simply because, after losing on marriage, they see no other venue for victory. 

    On the positive side, however, three years of bashing have led the rest of the country to a much better understanding of transgender Americans. Much as the stories of dedicated gay couples helped Americans recognize the need for marriage equality, so the stories of transgender boys, girls, men and women help Americans recognize regular people, rather than the freaky pedophiles of Houston campaign lore.  

    New Trans Ban Not Fooling Old Courts

    Speaking of transgender Americans and the education of the average citizen, Donald Trump’s latest effort to keep transgender troops out of the military has lost its first court challenge, a continuation of the court defeats handed out to the previous anti-trans policy. 

    In truth, there’s little the administration can do to recondition a military “policy” based on a spur-of-the-moment impulse by Trump, who called for transgender men and women to be barred from the military, apparently unaware that thousands of transgender troops were already serving their country. In making his announcement last July, Trump claimed he had consulted military authorities—a lie. He also insisted that transgender troops would be a budget buster for the military, based on (I’m guessing) his own vague sense of costly sex change operations and who knows what. In fact, the health costs of transgender service people add less than two hundredths of one percent to the military health budget. 

    Four major federal court cases have ensued, with Trump and company losing at every turn, including at a couple of appellate panels. Now, the administration is trying to convince the federal judiciary that recent tweaks constitute a completely new policy and render the existing litigation moot. Not only did Seattle-based U.S. District Court Judge Marsha Pechman disagree, but she also recently strengthened her legal dismay concerning trespass on the civil rights of transgendered citizens, calling for the highest level of judicial scrutiny to apply to the government’s rationale. 

    In other words, Trump is toast in her court, and likely the others as well. By the way, Pechman was the same judge who recently ruled in favor of the “bikini baristas” of Everett, Washington, where town fathers have now asked the Ninth Circuit to make the provocative maids cover up. 

    What Day Is It?

    I was just reading one of our annual gay high school prom stories, this one about two boys in a Georgia school who can’t be prom kings, because the school votes from one list of boys and another list of girls. The students will find a way if they want to elect these guys. They always do. 

    But I was reminded that it’s been a long time since I’ve read a “Day of Silence” article, maybe a few years. I gather that the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network is still promoting the annual protest, this year on April 27, so I will keep an ear open for t-shirt debates and counter protests. 

    I wasn’t even aware of the Focus on the Family “Day of Dialogue,” which aimed to counter the silence with a moralizing little postcard you can hand out to a gay student. Now it seems as if Focus has stopped the Dialogue, but not before one genius (Zach Moore) created a parody “Day of Monologue” postcard that reads:

    “I am giving you this card as a reminder that I am planning to talk to every gay and lesbian student in this school, including you—and to invite you to listen to an awkward sermon about how God cares about which kids in school you want to date. I believe that Jesus Christ came to this earth to make it free from gay prom kings and lesbian cheerleaders. That’s why as a Christian—someone who constantly judges others even though Jesus warned me not to—I will stand up to homophobic bullies in public so that I can try to make friends with you and preach to you in private like I’m doing now. Because God cares so much about your sexuality, that he would rather have me preach to you about “intimacy” and “relationships”—things that I know nothing about—than spend this time collecting food and money for the poor.”

    It goes on like that, and is printed with the same graphics and typeface. For the life of me, I would swear they used to have a completely different anti-gay “Day of” something, but it’s vanished from my memory like a bad dream. 

    I suppose my point is that our slow but steady progress has lifted us to the point where the goings on in the schoolyard aren’t quite as bad as they once were. We can say that, right?