BY ARI EZRA WALDMAN
With certain gay media outlets fanning its flames, a false fracas is unfolding about Lawrence v. Texas. It is creating an issue out of nothing and, as a result, it is obscuring the undisputed good work done by Lambda Legal, the American Foundation for Equal Rights (AFER), and other legal organizations to win our rights through impact litigation.
The excellent Dahlia Lithwick takes to The New Yorker to review Professor Dale Carpenter's new book, Flagrant Conduct, which tells the sometimes-dramatic, sometimes-licentious, sometimes-mind numbingly arcane saga that precipitated the seminal decision in Lawrence v. Texas, a foundational case for every civil rights victory we will ever win. But, Ms. Lithwick took a scholarly book and learned the wrong lesson.
Professor Carpenter tells a story that most people do not know: about how the story started with four men drinking in an apartment, how policemen stormed into Lawrence's apartment looking for a gun but found none, how the worst thing the police saw was a lewd picture of James Dean, how Lawrence insisted on his innocence but pleaded "no contest" to challenge the anti-sodomy law, and how the men were poor, drunk, sometimes homeless, and probably not in love. But, although interesting, the particular personal histories of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner are irrelevant: Lawrence will always be a story about love because even if Lawrence didn't love Garner, their case legitimized gay love in the eyes of the law.
Ms. Lithwick also seems to imply that a lawyer's strategy to make the most effective arguments possible borders on deception or, in some way, makes the ultimate victory less wholesome. That is surprising coming from a lawyer, who should know that every case -- from one that challenges a ban on marriage recognition for gays to one that seeks $500 in medical expenses for a slip-and-fall -- has the same strategy: win.
Finally, she also misunderstands what gay rights cases are really all about. As I have argued many times, the traditional libertarian meme, "Get the government off our backs," will only get us so far. Texas may have had no business in Lawrence's bedroom that night in 1998, but our quest for the freedoms of intimacy, identity expression, and marriage is not a yearning for a small government that lets us do whatever we want behind closed doors; rather, it is a quest for social inclusion, societal honor, and the moral worth of a gay life's love.
CONTINUED, AFTER THE JUMP...