A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Dale Carpenter

A Public Conversation About “Flagrant Conduct”

By Drew Carroll

Thursday, March 22, 6:00 p.m.

On a beautiful summer-like evening in New York City, just outside Columbus Circle, the Institute for American Values’ Center for Public Conversation hosted University of Minnesota Civil Liberties Law Professor Dale Carpenter, author of the acclaimed new book “Flagrant Conduct.”

The book demythologizes the facts behind Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark 2003 Supreme Court case that challenged a Texas law criminalizing sexual conduct between homosexuals; the decision sanctified the right of gay Americans to engage in sexual intimacy.

At the talk, Professor Carpenter offered this beautiful summation of his work, saying that it is the tale of “how gay rights lawyers rewrote a snarled human story into a pristine legal argument for basically a conservative Supreme Court.”

The snarled history began on an autumn evening in 1998, when four men were hanging out in a modest apartment in a poor section of Houston, Texas. John Lawrence and Tyron Garner had been talking in the kitchen when Mr. Garner’s boyfriend became jealous of what he perceived as flirtation between the two, and, wanting to cause trouble, went outside and called the police, saying that there was a man wielding a gun inside the apartment. It wasn’t true.

Several versions exist of what happened when Deputy Joseph Quinn arrived at the apartment with three other officers. Deputy Quinn’s version, described as the “most salacious” by Professor Carpenter, had Mr. Lawrence and Mr. Garner having sex when the cops walked in. With police officers screaming and guns drawn, this version had the two men ignoring repeated requests to disengage from their sexual activity, continuing to have sex for almost a full minute until being forcibly plied apart.

At our evening discussion, Professor Carpenter threatened to halt the discussion for a “full minute” so that the group could feel the force of  the passage of time. Over the years, he explained, many people have been skeptical of Deputy Quinn’s account, because, practically speaking, “the moment would have been over,” well before a forced separation.

Shortly before  his death on November 20, 2011, Mr. Lawrence told Professor Carpenter that the deputy’s version of events was pure and unadulterated fiction.   (more…)

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