The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

It’s time for the GLBT community and allies to make the case that hostility towards gays and transpeople is not a legitimate tenet of any faith.


The new California law that is meant to protect contract workers from exploitation by companies like Uber is threatening freelance contributors to small newspapers and other employers who simply cannot afford to turn their gig workers into employees with health benefits and so forth. I started with this story because I’ve always found it funny that reporters for the GLBT press have a tendency to exaggerate the importance of news stories about, um, the GLBT press. We could have a Supreme Court ruling on same-sex marriage and some of us would still lead our columns with: “Crisis at Pride Media; editors at Out and the Advocate leave posts amid financial disputes!” “AB 5 Creates Hardship for Freelance GLBT Journalists!” or “Controversial Font Change at THE FIGHT Magazine; the debate rages on!” 

You get the picture. The story about Pride Media is actually true, by the way. Something fishy is going on over there but since I am not one of those obsessed news writers, I have not paid close attention. But the California law, AB 5, that I was going to make a joke out of is actually quite insidious. Unless you’re a staff writer at some big operation, you don’t get into GLBT news writing for the health benefits. It was a gig before gigs were a thing, and a law that limits the number of articles a California writer can submit per year is going to send that work to someone out of state or simply cut the Californian off at the knees. 

We’re not Uber drivers spending hours on the mean streets and putting wear and tear on our cars. We’re lounging by the pool with our laptops wondering what’s taking Carla so long to fetch us our Pina Colada. (It’s been fifteen minutes at least.) I’m just kidding, of course you know that. Anyway, California freelancers have filed a lawsuit against the bill. You go, guys!


So, we are at the end of a decade. (No, it doesn’t start at 2021, even if it does technically.) And for our community, the battles of the ‘20s will mostly concern the tension between faith and equality. 

This spring, the High Court will decide whether or not GLBT workers are protected under federal law by language that has long outlawed sex discrimination on the job. Are gay and trans bias a form of sex discrimination? The answer we’re likely to see is “yes, but…” and the “but” will be all about religion. 

Later, the Supremes are sure to see another cake shop or florist argue that laws prohibiting discrimination in the public arena should not apply to devout Christian business owners. 

As we fight for passage of the Equality Act, a bill that would add sexual orientation and gender identity to a raft of federal civil rights laws, Republicans are now pushing a different “civil rights” bill called the Fairness For All Act which provides for limited GLBT protections in exchange for vast religious exemptions. 

And we’ve watched in horror as the Trump administration has created commissions and policies on behalf of religious actors that are turning the strong fabric of GLBT equality installed by Obama into Swiss cheese. The bureaucratic repair work ahead of us will be extensive once Trump is history. 

It’s time for the GLBT community and allies to make the case that hostility towards gays and transpeople is not a legitimate tenet of any faith. It’s a prejudice, like racism or sexism, that should not be given equal weight in any Constitutional balancing act. We don’t give people a pass because their religion says women shouldn’t work or people of color are inferior. Why should we continue to allow a gay exception to fairness? 

In this vein, the High Court has also just agreed to hear two cases that seek to expand the ability of religious employers like schools and churches to operate outside federal law under what’s called the “ministerial exception.” It makes sense that a church should not have to hire a Satanist to lead Sunday services. But what about the cafeteria worker or the receptionist? Should that person be fired at will as well? The two cases involve women who were let go in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act, but they could just as easily involve members of our community, so we will be watching carefully.


That’s enough serious discussion for now. Before we descend into seasonal hilarity, also keep in mind that our four legal challenges to Trump’s transgender military ban are continuing their journey back and forth through the appellate courts. We are trying persistently to get documents that reveal the so-called thought process that went into developing the initial ban (i.e., none) as well as the files on the formal ban that was eventually presented by Defense Secretary Mattis.

Moving right along, if you blinked you may have missed the hoopla over at the Hallmark Channel, after the prig brigade at “One Million Moms” objected to promotional spots that included lesbian scenes from a new wedding planning website called Zola. Hallmark removed the offending images, triggering a backlash from our side of the ideological fence that far outmatched the original protest. Ooops, the company replied, our bad! Hallmark apologized, called the decision a mistake, and restored the plugs.

Meanwhile, Netflix took advantage of the crisis to promote same-sex scenes for Let it Snow and Merry Happy Whatever, under the tweet: “Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love?” 

Netflix is also airing a Brazilian comedy called The First Temptation of Christ that implies Jesus is having an affair with his buddy Orlando. The production led some two million people to sign a petition demanding that Netflix take it off the air because it “seriously offends Christians.” 

Honestly, Christians. Just don’t watch the damn movie! Aren’t you all a little tired of this? I’m all for religious freedom but that doesn’t mean that everyone else in the world has to follow your personal faith and bow down to all your personal sacred cows. And is it not possible Jesus had a sense of humor?


Now I find myself eager to finish this column and hop on over to Netflix to watch Let it Snow. I have already consumed at least half a dozen TV Christmas movies this season. With a glass of brandy or two, I find them sublimely relaxing and pleasantly mindless. 

There are three types. First, the Santa movie, where Santa’s son or daughter is a busy executive, called back home on an emergency basis to help with Christmas. He or she creates chaos by imposing new fangled business techniques, but comes to his or her senses in the end. Second, the stuck in the home town movie, where the busy executive finds love again with his or her long lost high school love (a widow or widower with a child) and learns the spirit of Christmas with the help of the wise townsfolk and the aforementioned child. And finally, the small European country movie, where the earnest reporter or school teacher finds herself in a tiny principality and falls for the duke or prince even though his mother doesn’t like her. 

In many of these movies, if not all of them, the couple winds up ice skating. One of them cannot skate, they fall over and come face to face while struggling to their feet, connected by a sudden spark of romance. Is it too much to hope these days that we can someday get a totally gay version of the TV Christmas movie? Perhaps we already have! Let me check out Netflix. Join me!