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    Ann Rostow—- Who Watches the Watchers?

    annboxBy Ann Rostow

    Who Watches the Watchers?

    One of the under-reported aspects of the whole North Carolina fiasco is that the state’s new anti-trans law, HB2, contains no enforcement details. Yes, it’s now illegal to use the “wrong” bathroom in public buildings. But on the other hand, it seems no one is going to be patrolling the toilettes or handing out fines.

    Really? I’m not so sure. With the new national focus on the recently discovered dangers of mixing genders in the john, we may wind up with a vigilante force of helpful bystanders prepared to take citizen action. In one Texas city, a man followed a 5’3” woman into the ladies room in a hospital, concerned that she might actually be a guy. The woman, who was wearing jeans and a baseball cap, was closing the stall door when she noticed this fellow had barged right in and was heading her way. She pulled out her cell phone to record part of the confrontation, in which he sort of apologized and told her he was just checking to be on the safe side, or something like that.

    Say what? I know it’s just one anecdote, but you know it won’t be the last. There’s no specific bathroom law in Texas that I know of, but when people start railing about the threats to innocent women and children from predatory men, are we surprised that a certain cohort of males would take it upon themselves to “just check” that no one is violating female safe space?

    Now Target is under fire for announcing that customers can use the bathrooms they prefer. According to a story in the Huffington Post, the American Family Association has sent a few men into Target ladies rooms as a “test” to see (I suppose) if there were any guards to prevent such incursions.

    Sandy Rios, the director of government affairs for the AFA, told the press: “The net effect will be that people will not be stopped. We’ve already had people testing this, going into Targets and men trying to go into bathrooms. There is absolutely no barrier.”

    You read that right. The American Family Association ran experiments to see whether or not a man could walk into a women’s restroom in Target without being challenged by a paid security monitor. Sure enough, the retailer had not felt it was necessary to employ special guards for this purpose. There was no barrier! You could just walk right in, much as anyone can walk right into the opposite sex bathroom anywhere in the country if they want to do so. And guess what? No one wants to do so! Particularly transgender bathroom users.

    Title IX to the Rescue?

    The North Carolina legislature came back into a so-called “short session” on April 25, but it doesn’t look as if they’ll do anything to roll back HB2. Meanwhile, in the wake of the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal’s recent ruling in favor of a transgender male high school student who seeks to use the boys’ bathroom at school, an array of GLBT legal groups have written a letter to White House counsel Neil Eggleston and Attorney General Loretta Lynch urging the administration to make clear that the law threatens North Carolina’s $4.5 billion in federal education subsidies. As the Fourth Circuit wrote in its opinion last month, the Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights has interpreted Title IX’s ban on sex discrimination to encompass gender identity bias. Since a recipient of federal funds must follow federal law in order to be eligible for the cash, North Carolina would seem to be in a quandary.

    Emphasis on “seem to be.” It’s hard to know how all of this will shake out, and I’m not sure the administration can simply withhold that kind of money based on its own determination. I assume it can’t. On the other hand, a stern letter informing state authorities that they are skating on thin ice might have an impact. And we have already challenged the state in a lawsuit that will likely be supported by the Justice Department.

    And here’s something else. Ever since the Department of Education took their stand against trans-bias in schools, we have seen an increasing number of schools request a religious exemption to Title IX, a loophole that has always been available, but rarely used. Now, the Department is releasing the names of those schools online, the better to check to see whether or not your future alma mater is going out of their way to discriminate.

    Finally, look for North Carolina governor Pat McCrory to be unseated this fall by state Attorney General Roy Cooper, who has opposed HB2 and refused to defend it in court.

    Cock a Doodle Do

    So there was a giant, beautiful white rooster sitting in my front yard last evening, and it stayed there for hours, pecking and trying to hide in the hedge. I live in a city so I found this very unsettling and worried that it would be killed if left by itself. It was gone this morning, and I don’t see any feathers around. Still. I’m thinking the worst. Can you tell I’m not in the mood to write about GLBT-bashing in North Carolina or Mississippi?

    I must say, however, that it was a little ironic to hear Donald Trump’s perfectly reasonable comments on the trans bathroom subject. How is it that the same guy who bashes immigrants, flirts with white supremacists, condemns Muslims and verbally abuses women can appear, more or less, to support GLBT rights? It makes me a bit uncomfortable, frankly. It’s like being the only kid in detention who gets singled out for praise from the nasty proctor.

    “Alright. The next voice I hear gets suspension. When I come back I want you all to be working on your assignments … like Ann is doing. Ann, are you working on your assignment?”

    “Yes, Mr. Phipps.”

    “I thought so. Keep it up.”

    By the way, I’ve always wondered why suspension was considered a punishment. It’s like when a bad employee is put on “paid leave.” You stay home, watch Netflix and day drink. That’ll teach you!

    Masterpiece Theater

    There is good news in the cake wars. The Colorado Supreme Court has refused to hear the appeal of whichever baker messed with us in Colorado—oh, it was the Masterpiece Cakeshop—leaving in place the pro-gay verdict of the Colorado Court of Appeals. Masterpiece’s pro-bono right wing lawyers, the Alliance Defending Freedom, say they will be considering all further legal options, although I’m not sure what they have in mind.

    The Supreme Court? That’s doubtful. A couple of years ago, the justices declined to hear the appeal of a New Mexico photographer who was nailed for refusing service in a case that went all the way to the state supreme court. Why would they change their minds for this baker?

    Meanwhile, Melissa and Aaron Klein of Melissa’s Sweet Cakes in Oregon are appealing an administrative court defeat to the Oregon Court of Appeals. The pair, who moved their bakery to their home after bad publicity hit their business, recently had to pay $135,000 in damages to the lesbian couple they turned away. What really gets me is that their buddies from the very same Alliance Defending Freedom filed an oxymoronic 615-page “brief” to the court. Who is going to read that?

    Oh, and lest you feel sorry for the Klein’s financial hit, they’ve raised something like half a million through crowd funding over the last few years. Yes, these cases have been going on and on and on in part because they appear to illustrate the supposedly unfair pressures brought to bear on simple God-fearing folk who simply don’t approve of same-sex couples on religious grounds. In fact, all of these cases take place in states that outlaw anti-gay discrimination in public accommodations, requiring even the most devout or racist business owners to serve all customers regardless of their own personal bias.

    The irony in the states that are now trying to put laws into effect to protect religious businesses is that these are the same states that do not have anti-discrimination laws to begin with. It’s already quite legal to refuse service to a gay couple in Mississippi, thank you very much, but that didn’t stop state lawmakers from making it even more legal.

    Get Ready to Party

    Hey, are any of you San Francisco Bay Times readers one of the 75,000 Californians who accidentally registered to vote as members of the “American Independent Party?” Apparently, the vast majority of AIP registrants mistakenly believed they were signing up to be “Independents,” rather than “Republicans” or “Democrats.” In fact, if you really want to be independent of a party, you should have checked “no affiliation,” rather than checking the box for the white supremacist anti-gay AIP. Now, dear AIP member, you are not eligible to vote in any primary next month save your own party primary, when you can choose between Wiley Drake, Arthur Harris, Jim Hedges and the rest of the kooky crew who seek to represent the old George Wallace cohort.

    Unaffiliated California voters can participate in the Democratic primary, but only Republicans can vote in the GOP contest, another reminder of the fact that party rules vary from state to state and govern how a particular party selects its delegates and its candidates. I think Sanders was complaining the other day about some state that only allowed Democrats to vote in the Democratic primary, and yet surely that’s not such a startling rule?

    We Doth Protest Too Much These Days

    I just went to check some political factoid and got sidetracked by the story of a high school football player who managed to display his junk during the team photo session and got away with it. The photo made it all the way to the yearbook because the student was one of a hundred or so jocks in the shot and he was standing in the second row. If you didn’t know what he had done, you would never spot the indecent exposure because the detail is too small for the photograph. I mean obviously the yearbook publishers would not have ignored the offense if they had spotted it, right?

    At any rate, someone figured this out, and the boy, Hunter Osborn of Mesa, Arizona, has been charged with 69 counts of misdemeanor indecent exposure and one felony count of “furnishing harmful items to minors.” A detective told the press that the incident is still under investigation and the number of charges might actually increase!

    Someone representing Mesa Public Schools said the district was “dismayed” by the student’s behavior, which “does not reflect the values of Red Mountain High School or Mesa Public Schools.

    “Upon learning of the photograph,” they continued, “school administration immediately contacted police and is cooperating fully with the investigation. Disciplinary action will follow policy and may be based on the outcome of the police investigation. While the small size of the photograph as published makes the details difficult to discern, the yearbook has been recalled so the school can make a minor, but critical, edit for the inappropriate content.”

    Really? The first thing you do is call the police and subject this kid to a felony rap? You know me. I spent a good ten minutes trying to see something sexy, and I couldn’t make anything out even when I knew exactly where to look. Hunter, who looks terrified in his mug shot, reportedly dropped trou on a dare, and I must say I have to hand it to him. That takes balls, both literally and figuratively, and while I suppose the school had no choice but to recall the yearbooks, that should have been the end of it. Why not charge the adult yearbook supervisor with a felony? He or she was in ultimate charge of the content. Oh, and do you think any student who has a yearbook is going to voluntarily return their copy? It’s a collectors’ item!

    I know this has little to do with GLBT news. Nothing in fact. But, in the larger sense, it’s a commentary on our society. When did we turn into humorless, litigious prudes who call for the cops or the lawyers at the slightest offense? Our community must lead the fight against the thin-skinned hysterics, for everyone’s sake!

    Chant with me: Free Hunter!