Would Larry Craig Have Had a Case If He Came Out?

That’s the question the Minnesota Branch of the ACLU raised today, arguing that Craig’s refusal to acknowledge his sexuality hindered his lawyers from making his arrest two years ago for soliciting a police officer in a Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport bathroom stall into a civil rights case.

The Minnesota Independent interviewed ACLU-MN President Charles Samuelson about Craig’s decision to make the case about his guilty plea, rather than his sexuality:

“[The Supreme Court] can only take what his lawyers bring,” Samuelson said, and Craig had his attorneys bring only “a very small and limited technical issue about his guilty plea.”

But Samuelson said an appeal might have been effective had Craig made civil liberties arguments that the ACLU-MN raised in a friend-of-the-court brief. “Our issues would probably be more attractive to the [state] Supreme Court,” Samuelson said.

The ACLU-MN asserted that Craig’s arrest in a police sting meant to ensnare men seeking gay sex at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport men’s room was a classic example of government suppression of unpopular speech.

“The problem is he was reluctant to say he’s a gay man,” Samuelson said, adding that Craig’s recent retirement from office likely lowered the stakes beyond the point at which Craig would press his case, no matter what the issue.”

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  • Smokey Martini

    Perhaps he would have a case.

    But then that would misrepresent the reality of tearoom sex. Let’s remember that a vast majority of men who engage in it are straight-identified, with only a small minority of them being openly (or even covertly) gay. And not just straight men, but RESPECTABLE straight men, too! That said, it’s not deceptive at all to have Craig continue on as straight; in fact, if that’s the way he identifies himself, then so be it. We shouldn’t pander to people’s desire to associate “dirty” and “same-sex” activity with homosexuality. Doing so fails to acknowledge how frequently some straight men seek out dick, whether it be in legitimate situations (like a three-way in their bedrooms) or illegitimately (like at an airport washroom).

    If there’s one message this trial should teach the public at large, it’s this: you DON’T have to be gay (or a woman) to love dick from time to time. To which, I might add, it is PERFECTLY fine and normal to do so! There’s nothing wrong with being straight and being just a little bit (or immensely) into dick. And no, it won’t (or at least SHOULDN’T) affect the authenticity of your identity and how you present yourself to the world. Really, it shouldn’t matter if you like dick or not; what matters is how YOU perceive yourself. Questioning this does no good for anyone. Neither Craig, who may not identify as such, nor us gays, whom most ignorant citizens desperately want to identify as the ONLY group capable of engaging in “dirty” sex.

  • ask ena

    Hmmm…that’s ALL we need…the ACLU defending straight white dudes engaged in illicit behavior, who condemn homosexuals for trying to create a world or respectable life-long partnership.

  • ask ena


    “…a world OF respectable…”

  • jeffi

    Sorry but no, sex in a public place is never a civil rights issue, it’s unsafe for everyone and I wholeheartedly support it being illegal.

  • Smokey Martini

    I disagree Jeffi. Sociologists have demonstrated time and again that the unspoken codes in place during a tearoom interaction ensure that only those people knowingly interested in the action are able to see, and engage, in it. That is: men interested in tearoom sex immediately stop everything they’re doing once they hear someone walking into the washroom. At that point, one of three things might occur:

    1. The men decide to end their session and leave the washroom.

    2. The men wait around to see if the person who just came in is there to only piss/shit — in which case they wait for that person to leave in order to resume their session.

    3. The men wait around to see if the person who just came in is there to seek out washroom sex — in which case they leave if they are NOT interested in having the new person watch them or participate in their session.

    4. The men wait around to see if the person who just came in is there to seek out washroom sex — in which case they continue with their session if they are interested in having the new person watch them or participate.

    Rarely, if ever, do the men continue unless they are absolutely sure that the new person is indeed ‘one of them.’ And much less if that person under-aged. Usually, the only way strangers realize that a session is underway is if (a) they are DELIBERATLY seeking it out, as in the case of a cop, a gay basher, or another cruiser; or (b) if the new person is perceived to be ‘one of them’ (i.e. if they’ve been loitering in the washroom for more than five minutes). Other cruisers, voyeurs, or merely curious men end up staying longer. Otherwise, tearoom sex often goes unnoticed.

  • Smokey Martini

    Leaving aside those men who get their kicks out of washroom sex (i.e. those who see it as a kink), this SHOULD become a civil rights issue. No, I’m not saying that washroom sex should be de-criminalized,* but if certain men (gay or straight) are engaging in washroom sex out of shame, fear, and desperation (i.e. if they are married and afraid that a publicizing of their interest in men will inevitably mar their reputation and negatively affect their ties with their wife, family, friends, and employers), then the issue is not their interest in sex per se, but the way in which homosexuality is perceived within their social circle and, by extension, their community. Washroom sex, in this case, becomes symptomatic of a negative portrayal of gay men and, ironically, any attempts to force a straight cruiser like Craig to identify as gay only fuels this negativity.

    In other words, what would need to change is the way gays and lesbians are represented to the public, regulating the false (and negative) stereotypes that are oh-so-frequently circulated to vilify and denigrate them. After all, let’s not forget that most of the straight (and gay) men who engage in washroom sex are the ones who perceive openly gay men to be ‘immoral, ‘unnatural,’ and ‘dirty.’ They would rather be caught dead (or in a washroom) rather than to be found strolling through their nearest gay village (if there is one) in search of a fuck-buddy. Washroom sex, then, provides a space where they CAN engage in man-on-man action while being completely disassociated with anything explicitly ‘gay.’ And this is where things start getting complicated…

  • Smokey Martini

    * In any case, Jeffi, I’d like to know the reasons why you believe public sex is “unsafe for everyone.” As far as I’m concerned, as long as it’s consensual (both for the people engaged in it and for those who are caught watching it), then it poses no real danger. Having said that, it is important to remember that sex, in and of itself, is entirely harmless. Only negative attitudes towards sex lead to reactionary behaviour that may be damaging to the people engaged in it as well as those who were unwillingly confronted with it.

    That is: given one’s attitude towards public/gay sex, it can either be shrugged off as no big deal, or it can be seen as a completely traumatizing experience requiring professional help. It all depends on an individual’s reaction to it. Of course, the remedy for this is NOT a criminalization of public/gay/sex, but a re-configuration of the way sex is taught in school and presented through public programming. The morality of abstinence-only education should be thrown out the window, to focus instead on good hygiene, safer sex practices, and the prevention of risk. Not to mention a naturalization of sexual activity through the traditional focus on biology AND a new focus on sexology – a field that would introduce youths/citizens to the wide spectrum of erotic pleasures found in ‘non-reproductive’ sex. You know, everything from gay/washroom sex, to voyeurism, exhibitionism and, yes, even piss and scat play.

    There’s no need to deny the fact that such erotics/sexual activity exists in the world. IT DOES. And denying youths/citizens the truth about these sexual/erotic encounters will only contribute to the reactionary/traumatizing reaction that is so dangerous to intolerant minds. Equipped with such a knowledge, unexpectedly walking in on two men jerking each other off at a set of urinals (for example) wouldn’t seem so bad. In fact, because they KNOW it’s part of what happens in the washroom (as unhygienic as it may be), they will at least expect to come across it once in their life. Sexual education (like professional education), then, should be about PREPARING youths/citizens for these experiences, not negating them. The latter is nothing but a tremendous disservice to the maturation of the individual.

  • Smokey Martini

    ONE LAST THING: in talking about public sex, I think it’s crucial we look at one related example that, because of its familiarity, has ceased to be a big deal:

    Public kissing. Surely, there will be those who are completely fine with it. There will also be those who are uneasy with it. And, most certainly, there will be those who consider it absolutely intolerable and disgusting. Does this mean public kissing should be re-criminalized and eradicated? Not at all! Perhaps it means the people who are engaging in the kissing should be more discriminate in terms of where and when they start kissing, to be more considerate of how others might react to it, or to gauge how empty the bus or street should be before they lock lips. In other words, they should kiss RESPONSIBLY. Surprise, surprise: the very same can be said of washroom sex!

    In fact, washroom cruisers are arguably 100 times more responsible with their sexual activity than people who shamelessly engage in public kissing. That is: EVERY responsible washroom cruiser engages in sexual activity if and ONLY IF he is absolutely sure that the other people in the washroom are also interested in seeing/seeking sexual activity. If the washroom is teeming with people who are obviously not interested, then sexual activity just doesn’t happen. YES, there *IS* a level of courtesy involved in washroom sex!

    Of course, the care that goes into cruising responsibly is not entirely based on one’s desire for a quick wank/suck. It is also based on a deep concern for the reaction of others in the washroom. No less because cruisers might fined for offending someone. One wrong move, and the cruiser could easily be reported to security by an offended washroomer, or arrested by an undercover cop. After all, ‘loitering’ or ‘acts of indecency’ are illegal offenses that apply to washroom sex. As you can see: discretion IS KEY!

    But rest assured: public kissing was just as obscene as washroom sex is now when it first became prevalent in the 1920s. Slowly but surely, because it became more common and because people were more frequently exposed to it, its offensiveness soon faded. People EXPECTED to see it. People knew it would happened whether they liked it or not. And so, it became part of everyday life. Well, at least for straight couples. Gay men were still being charged for ‘acts of indecency’ in the 1970s and early 1980s for kissing in public. That’s a completely different story, though.

    Could public/washroom sex be the next frontier? Perhaps so! Vondelpark in Amsterdam is now allowing public sex, but only certain conditions. As Alderman Paul Van Grieken puts it:

    “Why should we ban something that is impossible to ban, that causes little bother to others, and for a certain group signifies much pleasure? Of course there are strict rules attached. Condoms must be cleared away, sex is restricted to evenings and night times, and must never take place near children’s playgrounds. Cruising is also permitted, so long as it does not offend others…”

    Just something to think about.

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