The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

Pope Francis reportedly told a group of parents of gay kids that “God loves your children as they are. The Pope loves your children as they are, because they are children of God.” That’s nice. I wonder if His Holiness might have a word with Catholic Social Services down in Philly.


Since last we met, so to speak, the world has changed. Not since Alito replaced O’Connor have we had such a dramatic shift on the Supreme Court, and even that shift was obscured somewhat by the fact that some of us (me) did not realize how truly horrible Justice Alito would be. Swapping Kennedy for Kavanaugh was not half as devastating as the idea that we will soon allow a hard right conservative Christian to take the place of our most liberal champion. 

And there’s nothing we can do. I hope we can stall things until after the election. As I wrote elsewhere, perhaps we’ll discover that Amy Coney Barrett had an affair with Jerry, Betsy and the cabana boy. But I’m not optimistic. 

I’m depressed, quite frankly. And more than that, I am completely hung over after watching the debate, which filled my wife and me with a combustable mixture of strong emotions that required regular dousing with alcohol. Indeed, we began the show with a drinking game that included the expression “here’s the deal,” when spoken by Biden. Sure enough, Biden rattled off the phrase half a dozen times to the point where I had to make another pitcher of vodka grapefruit cocktails.

Trump made us want to tear our hair out, while Biden made us as anxious as parents at a nervous child’s piano recital. About midway through the fiasco, we just started swilling the deceptively mild mixture that I knew in the back of my mind was a sixty-forty vodka-to-juice combo. I’m paying the price. I left a dutch oven half full of beef stew  on low heat overnight, which turned it into a thick dark mass. (Still tasty.)  And I’m having another glass of last night’s concoction right this minute, because—just because.


There’s a big Supreme Court case heading straight for us like a bullet train, and unless we can stall Ms. Barrett until after the election, we’ll be standing on the tracks on November 4 when the Court hears arguments in Fulton v City of Philadelphia, the review of the city’s decision to strike Catholic Social Services from participating in Philadelphia’s foster care program on the grounds that the organization refuses to place kids with gay or lesbian couples. 

The case will determine if and when religion can be used as an escape hatch to defy civil rights laws. Significantly, it will also test the 1990 precedent of Employment Division v Smith, that ruled an individual cannot ignore generally applicable laws based on his or her faith. 

Sounds like a straightforward idea, right? What if my religion requires me to play heavy metal music in my back yard at two in the morning, or yours celebrates the third Friday of the month by slaughtering three black cats? What if your religion means you won’t hire gays, won’t serve transgender customers, won’t rent to lesbians? The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit ruled in favor of Philadelphia, so a 4-4 Court would leave that decision in place, should we manage to squeeze a vote from the right side of the bench. But with Barrett in robes, the case is lost, and the Smith precedent likely goes down as well.

That said, a 4-4 tie would not set a High Court precedent, and there’s no doubt that more of these religious freedom cases are headed for the justices in the years ahead. But as we’ve learned, the years ahead hold many surprises if we can just hang on for the short term.


I’m not even going to discuss the continuing homophobia that spews out of the Trump administration like methane from a shale well. At this point, I can’t even fathom the idea that Trump might win reelection, so my attitude is “this too shall pass.” Whatever they’re doing, it will stop on January 20, and our national recovery will begin. 

That recovery, in turn, will either be tedious or crisp, depending on who wins the Senate. I compulsively check various election web sites, as if I can sway the outcome by sheer personal will. I’m reminded of watching my father’s heartbeat and oxygen stats on the ICU monitor with the same ferocious intensity. I only hope my magical thinking works better on the election than it did those many years ago.

Moving on, I gather that some Cubs baseball announcer got caught on a hot mic calling Kansas City a “fag town” or something like that. He’s off the air now, and for the record, Kansas City is a lot of fun. 

I also read that conservative German politician Friedrich Merz asked whether he could ever support a gay chancellor. 

“Concerning the question of sexual orientation,” he replied, “as long as it is within the law and does not affect children—which at this point, for me, would be an absolute limit—it is not an issue for public discussion.”

Hello? Do we still have to remind people that pedophilia is not a “sexual orientation?” Merz has subsequently been trying to walk back the comment.

And Pope Francis reportedly told a group of parents of gay kids that “God loves your children as they are. The Pope loves your children as they are, because they are children of God.” That’s nice. I wonder if His Holiness might have a word with Catholic Social Services down in Philly.


Every now and then I encounter a report about gays or lesbians for Trump, and while I’m sure we have a few low-information voters in our otherwise sensible community, these contrarian stories always annoy me. I’m reminded of the one Black guy who we used to see at Trump rallies. It was always the same guy, and if I’m not mistaken, he was the one that Trump singled out when he cried out: “I love my African American!”

 Lately, Bret Stephens managed to discover “Chris,” a fifty-something Manhattan lesbian who is secretly voting for Trump but doesn’t want her friends to know. I’m not sure what the center right New York Times op-ed writer was trying to illustrate. Among her reasons for supporting Trump, Chris thinks the Clintons were behind the Russia investigation, she believes millions of Americans could have died from Covid so 200,000 is not that bad, she hates homeless people and she loves the gains in her 401K and low gas prices. She thinks her $560 monthly Obamacare premium was too high, and blames the former president for the bad initial roll out of the Obamacare website.

“If the Democratic Party and its allies can’t hold on to a voter like Chris,” Stephens wonders darkly, “who else might they be losing?” 

Look, there are lots of Chris-types in this country, even in Manhattan, and there are plenty of batshit crazy gay men and lesbians elsewhere as well. I think we’ve all met our share of them at one point or another in our colorful pasts. But for every Chris, you’ll find a thoughtful Biden man with a wife, six kids and a rack full of rifles herding cattle in west Texas. 

Hell, since he is a never-Trump man, God bless him, one could ask who else the GOP might be losing if they can’t hold on to a voter like Bret Stephens? I pray the answer is in the tens of millions.