The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

“Two women professed their love for one another on Bachelor in Paradise, a touching moment that those of us who have resisted this small screen genre sadly missed.”

Hits Surge, Coverage Declines

I was just reading an article in Real Clear Politics about how cable news coverage of LGBT issues has virtually vanished during the Trump administration. Conversely, the article says, Google hits for this subject near and dear to our communal hearts has surged. Hmmm. The first part is not so surprising. My job is to write about LGBT news and I am forced to wrench myself away from the continuing saga that is the Trump presidency in order to fulfill this mandate. 

Are we really expected to do a deep dive on the Equality Act when corruption rules the administration and our country is in crisis? From Day One, this administration has been immersed in cascades of scandals, while our valiant civil rights movement has appeared to be marching along quite nicely. Why should the cable news assignment editors switch from a hot Trump topic to a tepid progress report on the gay community?

To be clear, under the surface, our victories of recent years are being eroded by the Trump/Pence bureaucracy, by the increasingly conservative courts and by a general backlash in favor of religious rights. Nonetheless, I can still understand why LGBT topics have drifted off the radar during the Trump years.

What I can’t fathom is why the Google hits have escalated. Check out the chart on Real Clear Politics for an illustration of the dramatic rise in searches for “LGBT” since mid-2016. Is there a PhD student around who could look into this on our behalf?

We Are On The Brink

Meanwhile, we are on the brink of historic developments that could set our fight for equality back years. On October 8, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in three cases. Two of these are combined to present the question of whether or not Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gays and lesbians in the workplace, while the third asks the same question on behalf of transgender workers. 

It sounds wonky compared to the simple matter of whether or not we can marry our partners. But beyond the ins and outs of Title VII lies the core issue of whether LGBT citizens are entitled to the same protections against discrimination as people of color, people of faith and other minorities. If not, why not? Why the gay exception? 

Is there something particularly wrong with being gay or trans? Can we be fired or harassed just because employers or co-workers dislike who we are? And by extension, because this federal law has an impact on other federal laws, can businesses exclude gay customers? Can landlords reject trans tenants? You get the picture.

I guess a LGBT group is heading to Washington to demonstrate on the steps of the High Court building. And you know, it’s not a forgone conclusion that the Court will rule against us some six months from now. But it’s probable. And even a “compromise” narrow ruling against us will do significant damage to our cause. There’s no such thing as being “a little bit equal.”

Our Savior On Interracial Marriage

Last month, we discussed the antigay opinion from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit, where a 2-1 majority led by a new Trump judge gave a green light to an antigay video company that wanted to reject gay marriage clients. 

This issue, we have finally heard from the Arizona Supreme Court, who decided that a Christian stationers store, Brush and Nib, was within its rights to ignore a Phoenix civil rights ordinance that protects LGBTs from discrimination in public accommodations. Brush and Nibs make wedding invitations that, naturally, include the names of the happy couple. God forbid they would have to put “Steve and John” or “Jane and Mary” on their fancy card stocks. That, said the court, would amount to forced speech and trespass on their religious beliefs. 

Keep in mind that the same rationale would theoretically allow a racist company to avoid interracial marriage clients, a phenomenon that we actually saw in Mississippi the other day when a wedding venue nixed a Black man who was marrying a white woman. Faced with a social media backlash, the good Christian woman who owns the venue apologized and explained that she had mis-read her Bible and now realizes that Jesus thought interracial marriage was just fine. 

At any rate, it’s clear that the wheels of justice are starting to turn against us on all fronts. Even if we elect a Democratic President and Senate and pass the Equality Act, will courts allow religious exceptions to rule the day? 

Too Gay, Not Gay Enough

Our gay candidate, Pete Buttegieg complained last month about the LGBT media, saying he couldn’t even read it any more because “it’s all, ‘he’s too gay, not gay enough, wrong kind of gay.’” Hey buddy! We never said anything bad about you in these pages. Later, Mayor Pete acknowledged that he had been having a “grumpy moment,” an explanation that I found endearing for some reason. 

I must say, the “not gay enough” critique of Buttegieg is absurd, coming from a community that literally prides itself on diversity. What happened to: “We’re here, we’re queer, we’re everywhere?” Are white males suddenly unwelcome? Are Christians not colorful enough for the rainbow flag? Is it flyover country we don’t appreciate? 

That said, there’s another media trope that annoys me, and that is the mainstream media habit of announcing that not all gay people support Buttegieg! The notion that every one of us would inexorably lean towards a candidate based solely upon our shared sexual orientation is ludicrous, yet I see these headlines all the time. Don’t get me wrong. I love having a serious gay candidate and I take pride in his fund raising prowess and obvious intellect. But I don’t think he can beat Trump and I personally like Warren better anyway.

Great Idea For A Reality Show

What else is new? Ben Carson said some bizarre things about hairy transgender men using women’s bathrooms. No, he wasn’t referring to actual transmen, who in my view should indeed steer clear of the ladies room. He was referring to transwomen, who are hardly hirsute. In truth, I don’t care who uses the ladies room, but I understand those who would prefer that men stay in their own facilities, transmen included. 

And two women professed their love for one another on Bachelor in Paradise, a touching moment that those of us who have resisted this small screen genre sadly missed. 

Finally, I was drawn to the headline in the Kyodo News that heralded: “Japanese woman sues wife for having affair with sperm donor, wins payout, sperm donor then transitions.” Turns out a thirty-something Japanese lesbian got married in the U.S. back in 2014, and returned home where the couple arranged for a sperm donor to help them get pregnant. As the headline suggests, the pregnant woman proceeded to have an affair with the donor, dump her wife, give birth and invoke Japanese law to argue that she was never legally married to begin with. Sperm donor then transitioned, the abandoned spouse was awarded about $10,000 in damages and everyone presumably lived happily ever after. 

Now that would make a good reality show.