The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

On the happy side of the ledger, we have the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, running for president, New York has banned conversion therapy, and in the most cute story, we saw photos of the adorable baby girl penguin with her gay dads Sphen and Magic at the Sydney aquarium.


There was bad news and less-bad news last month after the Supreme Court held their January 18 conference, which represented their last opportunity to schedule new cases for the current term. Which do you want first?

By now you probably can guess the bad news, specifically the 5-4 vote to effectively block two lower court injunctions against Trump’s ban on transgender military service. Four lawsuits have been underway since Trump popped his bizarre and ill informed anti-trans policy into the Twitter-verse in July, 2017. Our side won injunctions in all four, preventing the ban from going into effect while the litigation continued. 

After ex-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis produced a revised version of the policy last year, the government tried to get these injunctions removed, arguing that the new terms justified a new court review. In early January, one of these efforts succeeded when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled that the “Mattis Plan” was significantly different from whatever it was that Trump announced, and put a hold on the injunction in that particular case. A few weeks later, the High Court put a stay on injunctions in two other cases, one in California and one in Washington. A fourth injunction remains in Maryland, but the government is pushing to have that one frozen as well.


And the less-bad news? Well, at least the High Court has declined to accept the transgender cases for review, rejecting a Trump request to pre-empt the lower courts completely and cut right to the chase on the merits of the ban. The justices have also taken no action on three GLBT workplace discrimination suits, so we will be spared a crushing legal defeat at least for this calendar year. (Cue: single firework.)

I was completely pessimistic about everything SCOTUS until I watched Jennifer Levi of the GLBT Advocates and Defenders on Rachel the other day. Levi told Rachel that she has hope for the underlying transgender lawsuits now that we have won the chance to argue them fully in lower courts. According to Levi, one of the country’s top experts in transgender law, our equal protection arguments are strong enough to win a majority even given the conservative majority on the High Court. God I hope so.

As for the delay on our crucial workplace suits, it can only help. Who the Hell knows what will happen in a year? Maybe the Court will continue to duck the cases. Maybe one of the far right justices will have a conversion experience or, perhaps after a Democrat wins in 2020, a sudden desire to spend his retirement years on a beach somewhere. And no, I cannot wish worse on our SCOTUS adversaries. Every man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, etc, etc…


There are bad things happening to us around the world, depressing topics for our review including a violent roundup of gays and lesbians in Chechnya, a nasty gay-bashing in my home town here in Austin, an anti-gay arrest in Egypt, homophobic rhetoric coming out of Nigeria, a crazy mayor in Depok, Indonesia, trying to exorcise gay men, a GLBT immigration activist based in Vermont now facing deportation even as he awaits his asylum case, and much more!  

On the happy side of the ledger, we have the gay mayor of South Bend, Indiana, running for president, New York has banned conversion therapy, and in the most cute story, we saw photos of the adorable baby girl penguin with her gay dads Sphen and Magic at the Sydney aquarium. 

Sphen and Magic were given their own egg to hatch after a heterosexual pair had an extra one, and thanks to their diligent nest-keeping, the egg hatched in October. Meanwhile, the irresponsible straight parents-to-be in the colony were reportedly distracted and left their eggs out in the cold, leaving little “Sphengic” as the only chick to survive the breeding season. Since her birth, Sphen and Magic have been excellent care givers, singing to the little one, tucking her in at night and teaching her to swim while the childless straight penguins cavort and eat fish like seniors on spring break. 

Put that in your antigay stereo-pipe and smoke it. 


One of the disturbing developments implied in the “bad things” list above concerns a four-page letter from some Mandarin in the Health and Human Services Department that authorizes the governor of South Carolina to allow a tax-payer funded foster care agency to blackball gay and Jewish parents based on its religious posture. That is patently illegal, but not to Deputy Assistant Secretary Steven Wagner, who sees nothing amiss in elevating rightwing Christianity to the top of a religious hierarchy in the allocation of public services. 

The exemption granted to South Carolina is likely not the first of its kind. Late last year, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked HHS for a similar waiver for all federally funded agencies in the Lone Star State.

I hate this administration so much it’s almost unbearable. 


I just went through a half hour fit of unhappiness, triggered by my last sentence which destroyed my capacity to share cheerful inanities in these pages. I soured on everything I read and a dusky cloud enveloped me as I grudgingly scanned story after story. I went through the obituary of former Senator Harris Wofford, who married his boyfriend in 2016, but all I could see was the jaw dropping age gap between the 92-year-old Wofford and his 42-year-old husband. Time for a cocktail, I thought pragmatically, but would that really help? (I’ll tell you in a few minutes.)


And in unrelated news, I just watched the Netflix film about the disastrous Fyre Festival, and the bozo bros who thought they could put a bunch of sexy model beach shots online and somehow charge hundreds of people thousands of dollars for a music festival, even though they had no Earthly idea how to organize the infrastructure for a major event and seemed to think it would all magically come together at the end. 

In the course of arranging this fiasco, at one point a container of water bottles was held up in Bahamian customs, and a staffer was sent out to give the gay head of customs a blow job in exchange for releasing the shipment—which the staff guy was prepared to do. Happily, the man gave him a break, but seriously? 

I can sort of see getting a blow job, but giving one? 

Maybe it’s my advanced age, but the whole idea of influencers and projecting false images of the perfect life online is jarring to me. I was schooled to believe it was bad manners to brag about things that would make someone jealous. If you went to a wild party and later run into a friend who hadn’t been invited, you didn’t mention the party because you didn’t want your friend to feel left out. This basic piece of etiquette appears to have been turned on its head in the last couple of decades, for reasons unclear. It’s another thing making me unhappy this minute and my cocktail isn’t helping. n