The Rostow Report by Ann Rostow

“I’m sure you’ve all read about Carl Nassib, the Las Vegas Raider lineman who came out of the closet, becoming the first active NFL player to do so. Congratulations Carl. You go, man.”

MAKING A PERFECT CHEESE SOUFFLÉ

It’s Supreme Court Time, the end of the session when the Court is obliged to churn out all the big decisions of the year. That means we’ve finally got the ruling in Fulton v City of Philadelphia, our big GLBT rights case that asked whether or not Philly could enforce its GLBT civil rights ordinance against Catholic Social Services. 

The answer was no, so Catholic Social Services will be allowed to discriminate against same-sex couples and continue to work with the city in its foster care program. That’s not good. 

On the other hand, the Court came up with the narrowest rationale, one so twisted that even the three liberal justices went along with the reasoning. Expressed in just 15-pages by Chief Justice Roberts, and also joined by Kavanaugh and Barrett, the majority squirmed and wriggled its way to the ruling in favor of religious freedom, but it did so without upsetting the apple cart of major precedent or undermining civil rights laws. 

The three conservatives, Gorsuch, Thomas and Alito blustered their objections in two other concurrences, agreeing with the outcome but annoyed by the technical logic. Alito’s concurrence was over 70 pages long, and advocated that gay couples perform a dozen one-arm push-ups, make a perfect cheese soufflé and guess the number of jelly beans in a quart jar before being allowed to foster parent. Or something like that.


WEIRD BEHAVIOR OUT OF SCOTUS

Frankly, the ruling was a surprise, coming from a Court that now features avowed religious conservatives in the majority. We thought the justices would rule that any law with a religious impact must be narrowly tailored to a compelling public interest, a tough test that could have taken the teeth out of gay and trans rights laws across the country. Indeed, this is where Alito, Gorsuch and Thomas would have liked to wind up, but it proved too much for Barrett, Kavanaugh and Roberts, leading some observers to suggest the Court was split three ways; three conservatives, three liberals, and a center right triad of sorts. 

But who knows? Gorsuch, you recall, gave us the big GLBT anti-discrimination victory last year in Bostock while Kavanaugh joined a dissent in that case. Meanwhile, what are we to make of the decision last Monday, when the Court let stand a major decision in favor of a male transgender student who sued for the right to use the boys facilities at his high school? 

As you know, while it takes five justices to reach a majority, it only takes four justices to agree to hear a case in the first place and the case of Gavin Grimm, reaching the Court for the second time in recent years, seemed ripe for review. Writing in favor of gay and transgender discrimination plaintiffs in Bostock last year, Gorsuch made clear that his pro-GLBT decision did not “purport to address bathrooms, locker rooms, or anything else of the kind.” So you might think Gorsuch would welcome the chance to address these loose ends and clarify the limits of trans rights under his own jurisprudence, right? Um, maybe not.

We know that Alito and Thomas wanted to take the Grimm case, because the Court’s memo indicated as much. And while I can see why the ever-cautious Roberts might want to steer clear of this knotty issue, wouldn’t you think that Kavanaugh or Barrett or both might want to step into the arena and reverse the Fourth Circuit’s trans-friendly decision? Why didn’t they? I suppose we will wait for some justice’s autobiography years from now at which point we won’t even care anymore.


WHAT ELSE IS NEW?

The Bank of England has just started circulating the fifty-pound notes featuring Alan Turing, the mathematician who cracked the German codes, helped win World War II, was subsequently charged with indecency, chemically castrated, and killed himself. How the fallen become mighty. 

I’m sure you’ve all read about Carl Nassib, the Las Vegas Raider lineman who came out of the closet, becoming the first active NFL player to do so. Congratulations Carl. You go, man. 

And a new antigay law in Hungary, tacked onto a bill that protects children against predators, might just be the straw that breaks the back of EU leaders in the confrontations with Viktor Orban and his far right politics. The law, forbidding reference to sexuality in any literature seen by kids 18 and under, has triggered a major backlash throughout Western Europe, where leaders like Holland’s Mark Rutte called for Hungary to leave the European Union if the country could not follow EU laws and ethics. German soccer crowds wore rainbow colors and wigs during a match against Hungary, while international GLBT groups condemned the strongman and his homophobic posturing.


MASS INSANITY

Here’s a strange item out of the Washington Post. It’s the story of two married men, living in Milton, Massachusetts, with their young son. Starting about five years ago, they began receiving strange mail and (unpaid) subscriptions sent to their address but using vaguely antigay slurs instead of their names. After about thirty of these weird deliveries, the men contacted police, but there was nothing to be done about it. 

The phenomenon stopped for a time during Covid, but last month they got a subscription to the Boston Globe addressed to “Michelle Fruitzey.” This time, the Globe agreed to send the men a copy of the subscription card filled out in the perpetrator’s handwriting. The men then posted the card to their town’s Facebook page, and told their story. Not only did their neighbors react with sympathy and solidarity, but one individual took action, requesting a voter signature list through the Freedom of Information Act, and comparing all the signatures with the Globe subscription card. 

Sure enough, the exercise produced a match, and the police sent an officer to the suspect’s house, where the guy confessed and claimed it was all an extended prank. The man was a neighbor who had been friendly to the two men, and he may now face criminal charges. As for the men, Bryan Furze and LeeMichael McLean, they are relieved but shaken. “Discrimination happens in a thousand tiny ways,” said Furze. “There are big, giant discriminatory actions that are very prevalent and very painful, but there are also a thousand little nicks that bring people down and make them feel small and powerless.” 

After the incident, one neighbor wrote on Facebook: “I am Michelle Fruitzey” in an effort to reclaim the name. Others followed, and the trend led the men to make T-shirts and start an “I am Michelle Fruitzey” fundraising effort on Fundly, generating $27,000 for a college scholarship award targeted to GLBT students and allies. 

Paging the people at Lifetime made for TV movies!


arostow@aol.com