Academic journal article Nebula

Disorderly Conduct: An Interrogation of Residual Sodomy Laws Five Years after Lawrence V. Texas

Academic journal article Nebula

Disorderly Conduct: An Interrogation of Residual Sodomy Laws Five Years after Lawrence V. Texas

Article excerpt

In Aug. 2007, Senator Larry Craig was arrested in the men's room at the Minneapolis Airport and was booked for violation of privacy and disorderly conduct for making sexual overtures toward an undercover police officer investigating complaints of lewd and lascivious behavior. The arresting officer observed Craig staring at him through the crevices in the bathroom stall, tapping his foot and sweeping his hand underneath the stall dividers. Craig swiftly pled guilty, hoping that the incident would remain concealed. After all, such charges seem rather innocuous. When his indiscretion was revealed, he initially elected to resign his Senate seat; however, the public denunciations by his colleagues and the media's obsession with the subject compelled him to change his mind and fight to overturn his guilty plea, which he claims was made under duress, all along vehemently denying in the media that he is gay and simultaneously parading his wife around in front of the news cameras. Craig's indiscretion was a sensation, inspiring the jokes and parodies of comedians, both professional and amateur and even a novelty toy, representing a bathroom stall with the Senator's feet protruding beneath the plastic partitions.

Much of the related mirth seems justified because the Senator's persistent opposition to Gay Rights legislation, which includes voting for the 1997 Defense of Marriage Act that defined marriage as a bond between one man and one woman. Craig also hypocritically chastised Bill Clinton for his participation in the Monica Lewinski scandal, calling the embattled President a "bad boy" and supporting the Republican Congress's efforts to impeach the popular president. Craig's conservative and even prudish legislative record was antithetical to the recurring accusations that the Senator himself was engaging in homosexual activities, allegations dating back to the Reagan administration. Craig had even been unofficially implicated in the Congressional Page molestation scandal that destroyed the career of his Republican colleague from Florida.

Craig's hypocrisy was as gross as earth, and his downfall seemed a well earned comeuppance for his homophobic agenda, and while it is true that few progressives would wish any better for him and while his efforts to peer into the privacy of a presumed traveler in an adjoining toilet seem indefensible, the law enforcement tactic that ensnared the Senator has a sordid history, one long dedicated to the entrapment, public humiliation, and personal and professional destruction of gay men. Thus it is difficult for those of us conscious of the continued aggressive persecution/prosecution of homosexuals by law enforcement all over the country to find much humor or justice in the fall of Senator Larry Craig.

Craig's debacle reveals some recurring themes in the struggle of gay men for equal rights under the law. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court's repeal of sodomy laws some years ago, police harassment intended to interdict homosexual activity has scarcely diminished. Indeed, the Lawrence v. Texas decision seems to have had little effect save to preclude police from prosecuting same sex partners engaged in homosexual activity in their own homes. Law enforcement officers continue to masquerade as willing sexual partners of gay men only to arrest, charge, and publicly disgrace the latter when they take the bait, charging them with soliciting a police officer, lewd and lascivious conduct, disorderly conduct, and even disturbing the peace. Amazingly, requesting the very sex act rendered legal by the courts is in itself a crime in many states; thus it is not a crime to commit sodomy, but it is a crime to request it, which would seem to constitute a broad cultural application of the military's "Don't ask; don't tell; don't pursue" policy. However, just as many have reported in the military, the promise not to pursue is specious. The activities of the police have been exacerbated by the continued complicity of the news media and the business sector of our culture. …

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