The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

Now, a contractor basically need only wave a bible around in order to make those anti discrimination requirements vanish.

TOUCHING ANECDOTE 

It’s not exactly LGBT news, but I wanted to pass along a truly heart-warming story about the bond formed between a little 4-year-old girl and some construction workers that will make you believe that we all can make a difference when we give a child the gift of our time.  

 A young family moved into a house, next to a vacant lot.  One day, a construction crew turned up to start building a house on the empty lot.  The family’s 4-year-old daughter naturally took an interest in all the activity going on next door and spent much of each day observing the workers. 

Eventually the construction crew, all of them “gems-in-the-rough” more-or-less, adopted her as a kind of project mascot. They chatted with her, let her sit with them while they had coffee and lunch breaks, and gave her little jobs to do here and there to make her feel important. 

 At the end of the first week, they even presented her with a pay envelope containing a $10 check.  The little girl took this home to her mother who suggested that she take her $10 “pay” she’d received to the bank the next day to start a savings account.  

When the girl and her mom got to the bank, the teller was equally impressed and asked the little girl how she had come by her very own pay check at such a young age. 

 The little girl proudly replied, “I worked last week with a real construction crew building the new house next door to us.” 

 “Oh my goodness gracious,” said the teller, “and will you be working on the house again this week, too?” 

 The little girl smiled and replied, “I will, if those assholes at Home Depot ever deliver the fucking drywall….”


BREAKING THE NEWS

Okay then! 

I guess the nutcase running Brazil is planning on cutting off government arts funding to LGBT projects, a disturbing move and yet not as disturbing as his plan to sell off the Amazon basin to developers, logarithmically increasing the pace of global warming. 

Everywhere we turn, our LGBT issues seem dwarfed in the context of Trump and the other profoundly dysfunctional world leaders. 

The Palestinian Authority has clamped down on the gay rights organization Al Qaws, calling it “a blow to, and violation of, the ideals and values of Palestinian society.” Does this change the way one might view the far right Netanyahu administration considering Israel’s comparatively progressive views on gay rights? Um, no. 

And how about India’s invasion of Kashmir? Gay rights in Kashmir were nonexistent, and I actually read somewhere that the Indian policies would be an improvement for Kashmiri gays. But hello! Hundreds of people have been arrested for no reason and the area’s communication with the rest of the world has been severed. I don’t think gay civil rights issues are relevant under the circumstances, do you?

Here in the homeland, the Trump administration has just tossed out a proposal to expand the religious exemptions for government contractors, who since 2014 have been obliged to recognize LGBT civil rights if they want to do business with America’s largest client. Now, a contractor basically need only wave a bible around in order to make those anti discrimination requirements vanish. 

This new Labor Department goal continues the erosion of gay and trans rights throughout the federal bureaucracy, a near collapse that we may barely be able to survive if we elect a Democrat in 2020 and get to work rebuilding those protections. But again, it doesn’t take much to see that our problems, like those of Rick and Ilsa, don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world where our president seeks to dismantle NATO, arm Saudi Arabia with nuclear weapons, evict people with green cards from the country, lock up asylum seekers indefinitely, enforce bizarre tariffs, foment white supremacy and who knows what else?

I know we still have to fight our battles, and we will, but meanwhile, WTF?


Judge Not

One of the worst things Trump has done to us, by far, is the appointment of dozens of federal judges, including nearly 50 far right jurists to the federal appellate courts.

Mitch McConnell, who managed to slow walk Obama judges, has opened the floodgates for Trump picks, who of course are actually selected by conservative legal groups. (Google Steven Menashi for an example of the type of nominees being funneled through the system.) I haven’t checked for a few weeks, but I think Trump is close to matching the number of Obama’s appellate judges even though Trump has five fewer years in office.

And of course we’re not getting rid of these people for decades because they’re all youngish and healthy with lifetime appointments.

I was reminded of this disaster when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit recently reinstated a lawsuit by two Minnesota videographers, who insist that their Christian views prevent them from accepting gay wedding clients, even as state civil rights law requires them to serve everyone regardless of sexual orientation. Their case was dismissed, but a 2-1 appellate panel just revived it, sending it back to the lower court with an opinion by one of Trump’s new appointees, David Stras

In his ruling, joined by a Bush Two judge, Stras agreed that the Minnesota law could be interpreted as a violation of the business owners’ free speech and freedom of religious expression, given that they claim making a video of a gay or lesbian wedding is endorsing a message they disapprove. On the other hand, Stras wrote, there would be no problem in forcing a restaurant to take down a “whites only” sign.

Really? This is at the heart of these religious freedom cases, since logically, there is no reason a business could not ban minority customers if they claimed their faith demanded such a policy. In dissent, Obama appointee Jane Kelly said as much, noting that “nothing stops a business owner from using today’s decision to justify new forms of discrimination tomorrow. In this country’s long and difficult journey to combat all forms of discrimination, the court’s ruling represents a major step backward.”


The Beat Goes On

In related news, a Kentucky T-shirt company, Hands On Originals, is continuing to fight for the right to reject a Lexington gay pride group that tried to print a shirt advertising “Lexington Pride Festival 5” back in 2012. 

The county Human Rights Commission initially ruled that Hands On violated the local anti-discrimination code by refusing the business. But that decision was overruled by both a state court, and a state appellate court. Now, the case is headed to the Kentucky Supreme Court, where I’m pessimistically guessing that bad luck will follow. I know nothing about the Kentucky Supreme Court, so we’ll see. Among other things, Hands On argues that it does not want to promote an immoral message, yet “Lexington Pride Festival” is not exactly an invitation to sin city. Not unless Lexington Pride is a whole lot more fun that the festivals I’ve been attending all these years.

And as I noted last month, we’re still waiting for a ruling out of the Arizona Supreme Court where a Phoenix-based stationery store is trying to avoid having to print gay wedding invitations. But lo, I see my word count is expired, which means only one thing. It’s cocktail hour at last. 

Skoal!


arostow@aol.com