Hate Crimes, SCOTUS—and John Waters

Gay news and noteworthy articles for the week of November 18, 2020

As states conduct canvassing in preparation for certifying the results of the 2020 election, President Trump continues to insist falsely that he actually won. In more than 300 tweets since November 3, Mr. Trump has woven a web of lies about alleged Democratic voter fraud that is utterly contradicted by a raft of testimony from state and federal voting officials and independent experts. He has filed numerous lawsuits contesting results or challenging vote-counting procedures, many of which have been tossed out of court for want of evidence. While some fear that he will try to use swing-state legislatures to appoint GOP electors in defiance of the popular vote, at the moment this still appears unlikely to succeed.

Yet the Republican head of the General Services Administration refuses to recognize Joe Biden as president-elect, depriving him of funds and agency access needed to assure a smooth transition. Republicans and Democrats alike have noted that this intransigence has the potential to threaten national security and the federal pandemic response, including vaccine distribution.

Despite Mr. Biden’s victory, the year ahead seems likely to be rocky for gay rights in the United States. On Monday, the FBI released its annual report on hate crimes, and the picture is not pretty. Based on the FBI’s data, we estimate that after falling to a low of 9.6 per 100,000 LGBTQ people in 2014, hate crimes motivated by anti-LGBTQ animus rose to 11.8 per 100,000 LGBTQ people in 2019.

LGBTQ hate crimes 2010-2019

But there is no reporting requirement, and in 2019 only one out of every seven agencies participating in the FBI’s survey reported hate crime data. Thus “the FBI’s report vastly underestimates the real level of hate crimes in the country,” says the Southern Poverty Law Center. “Hate-based attacks have coincided with growth in the white nationalist movement… At the same time, the nature of hate crimes has shifted toward violence.”

Federal courts packed by Mr. Trump with conservative judges also seem unlikely to deliver more judicial victories like Obergefell v. Hodges and Bostock v. Clayton County, and there is risk of some of these protections being rolled back. The risk seems particularly acute at the Supreme Court, whose Justice Alito recently delivered a speech to the conservative Federalist Society arguing that the right of same-sex couples to marry infringes the freedom of speech and religion of those who oppose same-sex marriage. Writing in The New York Review of Books, David Cole warns that a case currently before the court—Fulton v. Philadelphia—could give private contractors performing government services the right to ignore the terms of their contracts and discriminate against LGBTQ (and other) people based on personal religious objections.

On a lighter note, John Waters announced that he will donate 375 pieces from his collection to the Baltimore Museum of Art, which will name its bathrooms after him. Andy Warhol: Love Sex & Desire displays the artist’s early “seductive drawings celebrating male beauty.” Jim Mavro photographs Greek oil wrestling. And in a year-old post, Maria Popova tells of Herman Melville’s love and admiration for fellow author Nathaniel Hawthorne: “The soft ravishments of the man spun me round in a web of dreams,” Melville wrote alluringly in an 1850 review of Hawthorne’s Mosses from an Old Manse.

Illustration from Piero di Cosimo, A Hunting Scene, ca. 1494-1500 (Metropolitan Museum of Art) · Chart: LGBTQ hate crimes per 100,000 people = (Hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation + hate crimes motivated by gender identity) ÷ (Population covered x LGBTQ estimated 4.5% of population) x 100,000. Sources: FBI Hate crime Statistics, UCLA Williams Institute/Gallup Daily Tracking Survey.

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