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  • « 'There is no such thing as a hate crime in Alabama' | Main | As if on cue… »

    September 17, 2007

    Welcome ACLU, WaPo to the party

    Posted by: Chris

    Anthonyromero I'm happy to report that both the ACLU and the Washington Post have joined a growing chorus of voices asking questions about the Larry Craig arrest.  The ACLU has filed a brief on the conservative senator's behalf -- and they say politics makes strange bedfellows -- arguing pretty much what I've been saying in this space since the night the scandal broke:

    Solicitation for private sex, the ACLU argues, is protected speech under the First Amendment no matter where it occurs. … In its brief, the ACLU argues that the government can arrest people for soliciting public sex only if it can show beyond doubt that the sex was to occur in public.

    That second sentence is key.  There's been rampant speculation, including by me, over whether Craig was there to solicit public sex or private sex, and the speculation only proves the point: There's no way the government can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that a few hand and foot signals indicated one or the other.

    The prosecutors no doubt know this, so the charges are "disorderly conduct," an entirely too vague and subjective offense that they know most of those busted won't challenge because, like Craig, they just want it to go away. Whatever your sympathy level for Craig, and I have some in reserves, it's an abuse of government power to bully people into accepting an unconstitutional arrest based on their own self-loathing or lack of fortitude to escape from the closet.

    I've read an enormous amount of hostile crap from the likes of Dan Savage, Michelangelo Signorile and Mike Rogers who have succeeded in politicizing sex to a degree our conservative opponents wouldn't dream. Thank God for the ACLU, which remembers that even unsympathetic individuals deserve to have their civil liberties respected:

    "Senator Craig has not always been a great friend of civil liberties, but you shouldn’t have to endorse the civil liberties of others to keep your own," said Anthony Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU [who is openly gay, adds CC]. "Government should make public restrooms safe for all, but it should do so in a manner that is really designed to stop inappropriate behavior, rather than destroying the lives of people who might have no intention of doing anything illegal."

    Amen, Anthony.

    A Washington Post editorial this weekend wasn't quite so solicitous (pun intended) because it suggests the Minneapolis court should reject Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea. I understand the sentiment, since he certainly made as well-informed lay decision as anyone could under the circumstances, considering he's been writing laws for almost two decades.

    But with so much public attention on his case, I wouldn't mind seeing him succeed withdrawing so he could challenge the constitutionality of his arrest, which WaPo agrees was over the line:

    Mr. Craig should have been able to beat the charges because none of the gestures, in and of themselves, constitutes a crime. And Mr. Craig, even by the officer's account, did not expose himself or commit any other act that would have breached the law. …

    It seems clear that he pleaded guilty because his priority was not exoneration but avoiding exposure. What's troubling is that the sting operation may have been counting on just that sort of motivation in order to extract guilty pleas from men who, in fact, had done nothing explicitly lewd or illegal.

    Again, amen.

    For a complete news summary of the Larry Craig scandal, click or bookmark: http://gaynewswatch.com/larrycraig

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    Comments

    1. Double T on Sep 18, 2007 2:06:40 AM:

      Restroom Romeo

      Solicitation for private sex, the ACLU argues, is protected speech under the First Amendment no matter where it occurs……..ok, I follow( not sure if I agree ).

      1) In order for this to work, wouldn’t Craig have to admit what he was doing there, in one fashion or another. Which is NEVER going to happen.

      2) I don’t think the ACLU would prevail. I see the Courts restricting Free Speech in the Men’s Room. And I’ll tell you how, they will do it under the flag of “Public Safety”. Please look at what year it is. We live in the Age of Terror, everyone is happy to throw their rights out the window, just keep me safe.

      3) GOP could strike a deal and make everything “disappear”. They would be happy to do so, provided that Larry Craig disappeared as well.

      Craig prevailing/
      Chris, mark me down as “Not Going to Happen”, and never let me forget it if it does happen.

    1. Citizen Crain on Sep 18, 2007 12:02:33 PM:

      Whew, Double T, I've been sayin that since the beginning! Glad you finally get it. ;)

      To respond:
      (1) Not at all. The government has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that his signals communicated a solicitation for PUBLIC sex. The burden is not on Craig to claim the solicitation was for private sex.

      (2) It's not a matter of the courts. The legislature is the only body that can enact reasonable "time place and manner" restrictions on free speech, and they did not do so here. I can imagine a law placing some restrictions on airport restroom speech but I can also imagine it dying in a room full of snickering.

      (3) This is well out of the GOP's hands, thankfully, though it's fun to watch them frothing about trying to figure out how to make Craig go away.

      I agree it won't happen but not because of anything we're talking about here. He'll fail because he won't be able to withdraw his guilty plea. If he succeeds at that, I think he's got a very strong case for beating the bust.

    1. Double T on Sep 18, 2007 1:22:04 PM:

      CC, when we agree on something, it kind of scares me. :-)

    1. Double T on Sep 18, 2007 2:25:03 PM:

      MSNBC.com
      -------------------
      Airport bathroom a tourist attraction
      Travelers want to see where Craig sex sting unfolded
      The Associated Press
      Updated: 10:18 p.m. PT Sept 16, 2007
      MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - When tourists ask for the bathroom in the Minneapolis airport lately, it’s usually not because they have to go.

      It’s because they want to see the stall made famous by U.S. Sen. Larry Craig’s arrest in a sex sting.

      “It’s become a tourist attraction,” said Karen Evans, information specialist at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. “People are taking pictures.”

      Craig was arrested June 11 by a Minneapolis airport police officer. The Idaho Republican pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

      Craig has since said his guilty plea was a mistake. His request to withdraw the guilty plea will be heard Sept. 26, just four days before he has said he will step down from his Senate seat.

      Just 15 minutes into her shift on Friday, Evans said she had been asked directions to the new tourist attraction four times. Other airport workers field the same question.

      “It’s by the Lottery shop, right next to the shoeshine shop,” said newsstand worker Abdalla Said, adding he gets the question daily.

      The Royal Zino Shoeshine shop owner’s grandson, Royal Zino, said it has been hectic.

      “People have been going inside, taking pictures of the stall, taking pictures outside the bathroom door — man, it’s been crazy,” he said.

      On their way to Guatemala, Jon and Sally Westby of Minneapolis made a visit.

      “We had to just stop and check out the bathroom,” Sally said. “In fact, it’s Jon’s second time — he was here last week already.”

    1. Andoni on Sep 18, 2007 5:45:55 PM:

      What the article forgot to mention is that Minneapolis is the site of next year's GOP Presidential Nominating Convention. Therefore all the Republicans can have to the opportunity to go see this historic stall for themselves.

      A made for the GOP Convention tourist attraction .... and quite an apropos one at that.

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