Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence V. Texas review

Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. TexasFlagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas by Dale Carpenter
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Very interesting book about the sodomy law in Texas and how it was struck down in 2003. It starts with the background of both the people involved in the case and the city of Houston w.r.t gay rights (which I found fascinating, having grown up there and never picked up on any of that stuff). Then the arrest in question, in which the author convincingly argues that Lawrence and Garner were probably not, in fact, having sex when the officers walked in. Somehow that makes the whole case more poignant – that the law was just being used because the officers were (understandably) upset that someone had called in claiming a guy had a gun when that wasn’t true, and generally down on gay people. (after Lawrence and Garner got lawyers they told them not to talk to anyone, because they wanted to challenge the law even though they probably hadn’t broken it!)

Then the author traces how the case was brought to the attention of Lambda Legal (helped out by some closeted people in the judiciary), and culminates in the argument before the Supreme Court. I was surprised that the Harris County DA was very unprepared and got totally hammered during his oral arguments.

The book also makes the point (as did Paul Smith, who gave the oral arguments for the plaintiffs) that the law was about more than just sex – it was used to justify discrimination since gay people were presumably law-breakers. I remember the feeling of oppression that I had before 2003 knowing that the law was on the books, even though it was very rarely enforced.

Anyway, you may not like this book as much if you’re not interested in the Supreme Court, gay rights, and didn’t grow up in Houston, but I ate it up 🙂

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