What if, in the end, Lawrence v. Texas was a whodidn’t?
|March 29, 2012|
Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence
From The New Yorker:
In 2003, the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Lawrence v. Texas, ruling, by a six-to-three margin, that anti-sodomy laws were unconstitutional. Even those of us who followed the case had a rather gauzy notion of what had triggered the litigation. On the night of September 17, 1998, someone made a phone call to the police, warning that a black man was “going crazy with a gun” in an apartment just outside Houston. A clutch of sheriff’s deputies stormed the apartment, and found no gun, but they arrested John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner for having sex in Lawrence’s bedroom. And, in an unlikely series of legal twists, the arrests of Lawrence and Garner became a vehicle for challenging old anti-sodomy laws that were used solely to shame and stigmatize gay couples. Lawrence and Garner were arrested for simply doing what loving couples do.
The story told in Lawrence v. Texas was a story of sexual privacy, personal dignity, intimate relationships, and shifting notions of family in America. By the time the tale poured from Justice Anthony Kennedy’s pen, in his decisive majority opinion, it was even about the physical dimension of love: “When sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring.” The opinion used the word “relationship” eleven times.
That is the story that Dale Carpenter, a professor at the University of Minnesota Law School, seeks to untell in his important new book, “Flagrant Conduct” (Norton), a chronicle that peels the Lawrence case back through layers of carefully choreographed litigation and tactical appeals, back to the human protagonists we never really got to know, and back again through centuries of laws criminalizing “unnatural” sexual activity. What if, Carpenter asks, this weren’t a story about love, or even sex? What if, in the end, Lawrence v. Texas was less a whodunnit than a who didn’t? And, if there was no sex, let alone an intimate relationship, in John Lawrence’s apartment that night, how did the case come to be about both?
The Black Dog
W. H. C. Pynchon
In a corner of our country not far removed from two of its great cities, there is a low range of mountains, the hoary evidences of ancient volcanic action. Countless years have elapsed since the great tide of molten lava rolled over the region. Years fewer, but still countless, have passed during which the shattered and tilted remnants of the lava sheets have watched over the land.
Merleau-Ponty’s Child Psychology
As much as death signals the end of the self, birth is just as mysterious. Both extend out to infinity and signal the brevity and contingency of our lives. As mysterious are those first few years of life that one does not have access to as an adult, I know I existed before my earliest memories. I know I interacted with others, I learned to walk and talk. I was willful from my parent’s tales.
William Pope.L: Reader Friendly
William Pope.L is famous for (among other things) carrying a business card that identifies him as “The Friendliest Black Artist in America.” It’s a clever gag because it makes itself true, in a way, every time it draws people closer. The card must be especially useful when Pope.L does business with people who dread Black men or Black artists.
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