The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

As Americans grow more comfortable with the gay, lesbian and bisexual cohorts within their midst, the Christian right has zeroed in with a vengeance on transgender and non-binary civil rights.


Should transwomen and girls be allowed to compete against cisgender sportswomen? The answer is simpler than it might seem. Most athletic organizations require transwomen to undergo a year of hormone therapy before they can play. After that, they no longer have the advantages of a male physique. I suppose you can argue about the length of time, but the idea that transwomen should face a lifetime ban on competitive sports is crazy. And crazy is of course, the status quo for our adversaries in red state legislatures who are spending large amounts of political capital to make life as difficult as possible for transgender men and women both.

Laws banning transgender athletes from facing off against their peers are under discussion in 17 states, according to the Human Rights Campaign, and one of these has passed in Idaho, where it’s been suspended by court order. Meanwhile, a lawsuit is pending against the state of Connecticut that pits the far right Alliance Defending Freedom against the trans-inclusive Connecticut Association of Schools. The U.S. Justice Department had put its weight behind the bad guys in this suit, while Betsy DeVos’ Education Department waged its own wars against transgender women elsewhere. Now our government is back on the side of the angels, withdrawing its statement of interest in a letter to the U.S. District Court in Hartford.

The government has reconsidered the matter,” said the letter. Indeed, as you know, the government has reconsidered the full range of Trump’s insidious attacks on the GLBT community, particularly where the T is concerned. 

As Americans grow more comfortable with the gay, lesbian and bisexual cohorts within their midst, the Christian right has zeroed in with a vengeance on transgender and non-binary civil rights. In Arizona, one state senator, who is pushing a bill to make sure no one is allowed to identify as non-binary on the state’s paperwork, wondered: “What’s going to happen when someday someone wakes up and they want to go to a far extreme and identify as a chicken or something, for crying out loud. Where do we draw the line?” 

Oh, and for the record, the Biden administration is in the process of adding “X” to the male and female gender markers that are used on federal forms including passports and social security cards. As for people who identify as chickens, they have yet to cohere into a significant political advocacy group, but once they do, I assume their fight for civil rights will enter the public arena and we will welcome them. Bwaak bwaak!


By the time you read this issue, the House will have once again passed the Equality Act, our signature federal effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity to various sections of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, as well as the Fair Housing Act. Unlike last session, this time the bill will get a hearing in the Senate, although it’s obvious that we cannot muster 60 votes for passage. Mitt Romney has already said no on grounds of religious freedom, while Susan Collins is pissed at us for supporting her opponent. You can do the math.

But at least we’ll get some hearings in committee, and one of these days, our side might kill or revise the filibuster which will open the door to a 50-plus-Harris passage. As far as I can tell, we’ll need to do something about the filibuster in order to pass any non-financial aspect of Biden’s agenda, although some money related measures can pass by simple majority through budget reconciliation.

The Equality Act will make sure that our civil rights don’t swing back and forth between Democratic and Republican administrations by executive order. And importantly, it will outlaw discrimination in public accommodation, where our Christian wedding vendors are currently free to give us the back of their hands. 


Speaking of public accommodation and Christian businesses, we now hold our breath for the High Court to release its opinion in the case out of Philadelphia, where the city declined to place foster kids with a Catholic services group that refused to consider gay parents. The City was enforcing anti-discrimination codes, but the Catholics insisted that their religious freedom outweighed such regulations. The case was argued in early November, just days after Amy Coney Barrett was seated as a justice. So, um, let’s see what develops here.

In other Court news, a Virginia school district has asked the justices to decide whether or not transgender high school students must be allowed to use the locker rooms and restrooms that match their gender identity. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit has said yes, they must. That means that if the Court declines to take the case, it will leave that trans rights victory and its reasoning in place. If, on the other hand, the Court accepts review, we will have yet another major GLBT lawsuit pending at the nation’s highest court. And what would our lives be like if we didn’t have a major GLBT lawsuit pending at the Supreme Court? Dull and colorless, I’d say.

You know, it’s been awhile since I double checked the Court’s agenda, but if I’m not mistaken, the Court never did decide whether to accept review of that flower shop case out of Washington state. I’m referring to the Christian florist, Barronell Stutzman, who refused to supply two men with flowers for their wedding. Her appeal was pending before the justices at around the same time as the infamous Masterpiece Cakeshop case, and after the Court’s wishy washy result in Masterpiece, they sent Arlene’s Flowers back to the Washington Supreme Court for a new hearing. The Washington court again ruled against Stutzman, who again asked the High Court for review. And I think that case is still floating around in limbo.

I hate this case because I never know how to spell “Barronell” without checking. Is it two “ns” or two “rs” or two “ls?” And does Stutzman have one or two “ns” at the end? You may think this is a trivial complaint, but believe me, it is extremely annoying to face the same orthographic dilemma over and over again and find myself incapable of learning from the experience.