Remembering John Lawrence, the man behind Lawrence v. Texas

Lawrence

John Lawrence and Tyrone Gardner

Metro Weekly reports that one-time Houstonian John Geddes Lawrence, the “Lawrence” in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away last month at the age of 68:

“In the facts underlying the Supreme Court case, Lawrence v. Texas, Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested under Texas’s Homosexual Conduct Law after police entered Lawrence’s home on Sept. 17, 1998, and saw them “engaging in a sexual act.” The couple challenged the law as unconstitutional”

I was 22 and living in Dallas in 2003 when the Supreme Court issued its opinion in Lawrence declaring Texas’ law against “homosexual conduct” unconstitutional. A group of over 100 people gathered in the parking lot of the Resource Center of Dallas as Dennis Coleman, then with Lambda Legal, read excerpts of the decision. I remember the exuberant electricity in the air, the crowd bubbling with joy and the relief of centuries of official oppression finally coming to an end. Similar get-togethers took place across the state, as an entire community breathing a collective sigh of relief.

That relief has turn to frustration over the years. Although the Supreme Court decision rendered Penal Code Section 21.06 unconstitutional, the law remains on the books, and efforts to remove it have met with significant resistance. During a hearing this spring on finally removing the unconstitutional law, Rep. Jose Aliseda, R – Pleasanton, lamented that repeal of the law would entail removing portions of the Health Code requiring that HIV education efforts include information that “homosexual conduct is not an acceptable lifestyle and is a criminal offense under Section 21.06, Penal Code.”

Before Lawrence several attempts were made to remove the law against “homosexual conduct.” The Texas legislature voted to remove it from the penal code as part of a complete rewrite of the code in 1971, but the measure was vetoed by Gov. Preston Smith. In 1973 the Legislature again undertook a rewrite of the code, keeping “homosexual conduct” a crime but making it a class C misdemeanor. In 1981 a U.S. District Court ruled in Baker v. Wade that the law was unconstitutional, but as that case was winding its way through an unusually torturous appeals process the Supreme Court ruled in Bowers v. Hardwick that a similar law in Georgia was constitutional, making the questions in Baker moot. Similarly, in the 90′s there was hope that Texas v. Morales might finally prevail in defeating the “homosexual conduct” prohibition, but the Texas Supreme Court decided that since, in their opinion, the law was rarely enforced, there was no reason for them to rule in the matter.

Lawrence’s legacy lives on in a scholarship named after him and Garner administered by the Houston GLBT Community Center. The scholarship “recognizes outstanding leadership shown by gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender Texas high school seniors and college
students by contributing to the cost of their continuing education. Selection is based upon character and need.” Tim Brookover, president of the community center, expressed sorrow at Lawrence’s passing “John was a hero, the community owes a great debt of gratitude to John and Tyrone for taking the case all the way to the Supreme Court,” said Brookover. “They could have easily allowed it to slip away, but they decided to stay and fight and that makes them heroes and role models.”

The application deadline for the John Lawrence/Tyrone Gardner Scholarship is March 2, 2012.

—  admin

SPLC hate groups list: Focus on the Family punts to God; we advise keeping at least half an eye on more grounded facts

In light of the recent additions to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s list of anti-gay hate groups, we asked Focus on Family’s Communications Director, Gary Schneeberger, if the Colorado Springs mega-gelicals still plan to reach out to groups like the American Family Association and the Family Research Council (two of the five groups added to SPLC’s dishonor roll). Here is Schneeberger’s on record reply:

We have some substantive differences with the way the SLPC defines ‘hate,’ so we’ll continue to base our partnerships on biblical criteria such as adherence to God’s truth and extension of His grace.

Interesting. This writer’s first reaction: That Focus on the Family really needs to reconsider some of the “God’s truth” that comes from people like the AFA’s Bryan “only homosexuals were savage enough for Hitler” Fischer, who pretty much single-handedly got the American Family Association on the SPLC’s list (*see more of what Fischer’s all about here). Or the godly gospel that comes from folks like the Family Research Council’s Peter Sprigg, who has called for both the exportation and criminalization of gays (which SPLC specifically cited as reason for FRC’s addition to the hate groups list). If that’s grace, then we’d hate to see God’s inelegance.

Second reaction: This reply seems counterproductive to FOtF’s wants and needs. After all, the SPLC’s criteria clearly sees Focus on the Family in a different light, which is why they are not on the list. In fact, in two different points of her write up regarding these new additions, SPLC writer Evelyn Schlatter was careful to note how Focus on the Family has adopted a more moderate stance in the days post-Dobson. And even though we’d say that FOtF’s “ex-gay” advocacy often belies this moderate desire, clearly SPLC, using their own organizational standard, sees Focus on the Family as failing to meet or exceed the “hate” bar. One would think Focus on the Family, especially in this “softer” Jim Daly era that they’ve been working so hard to cultivate, would want to embrace the higher standards that keep them from getting such negative notice. One would think they’s wish to repudiate the harsh words that seem to be growing harsher with every passing LGBT victory. But no. Instead of criticizing the fully documented realities that got these other groups on the list, they are opting to go after SPLC for simply noting the same? Hmm. Perhaps that’ll work out for ‘em, but I’m failing to see how.

Why would it be in Focus’ interest to taunt the SPLC’s discerning bar, saying that they have “substantive differences” with the SPLC’s definitions? And why would they stick their necks out to challenge the SPLC’s work when, again: All of this stuff is fully documented, most of it on audio or video (much of it brought to light by yours truly). All Schneeberger’s response will do is highlight the “pro-family” community’s all-too-common refusal to take responsibility for what comes from the religious rights stable, as well as force groups like SPLC (and sites like this one) to publicly wonder why on-message unity seems so much more important to these Colorado Springs kids than does responsible discourse.

*

*NOTE: Focus on the Family’s Stuart Shepard was on AFA Radio just yesterday.

*NOTE2: After another member of the SPLC’s incoming freshman class, Americans For Truth’s Peter LaBarbera, posted my wedding picture with the word “perversion” written on top of it, I wrote Schneeberger to see why he and his fellows never step up and criticize beyond the pale nonsense like that. I got no response.




Good As You

—  admin

Watch: McCain Lies, Gets Testy with Journalists Over ‘DADT’ Facts

Mccain

The Wonk Room reports on a meeting between Senators John McCain and Lindsey Graham and a group of journalists immediately following the Senate filibuster of the Defense bill, which effectively stalled DADT repeal in the near term.

In a dialog with The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld and MetroWeekly's Chris Geidner, McCain insists, in what can only be described as a hissy fit, that the military does not "seek out" sexual orientation, despite evidence to the contrary.

The Wonk Room's Igor Volsky notes:

"In fact, as Almy explained in testimoney before McCain’s own committee (Senate Armed Services): 'In Iraq, during the height of the insurgency, someone in the Air Force ordered a search of my private emails solely to determine if I had violated 'Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell', and to gather whatever evidence could be used against me.' 'I was relieved of my duties, leading nearly 200 Airmen, my security clearance was suspended and part of my pay was terminated. Even as my commander was relieving me of my duties, he assured me this was in no way a reflection of my performance or my abilities as an officer,' Almy testified."

Video and transcript, AFTER THE JUMP


Note: you may need to turn up the volume. Transcript via Think Progress:

MCCAIN: We do not go out and seek. Regulations are, we do not go out and seek to find out if someone’s sexual orientation. We do not!

ELEVELD: But senator, that’s not…

MCCAIN: That is the fact! That is the fact. Now ma’am, I know the military very well, and I know what’s being done. And what is being done is that they are not seeking out people who are gay. And I don’t care what you say, I know it’s a fact.

ELEVELD: It’s not what I say.

MCCAIN: I dont’ care what you say! And I don’t care what others say. I’ve seen it in action. I’ve seen it in action. I have sons in the military, I know the military very well. So they’re not telling you the truth.

ELEVELD: Senator, just to make sure…

MCCAIN: Just to make sure. We do not go out and seek out and find out….

ELEVELD: Private emails are not being searched? Private emails are not being searched?

MCCAIN: …See if someone is gay or not. We do not go out and see whether someone is gay or not.

ELEVELD: There are documented cases…

MCCAIN: They do not, they do not, they do not. You can say that they are, you can say [inaudible] it’s not true!… Yea, I’d like to see…

GEIDNER: It is the case of Mike Almy, Senators.

MCCAIN: Bring them to our office. It is not the policy, it is not the policy, it is not the policy.

GEIDNER: But it is the case that it’s happening, Senator.

MCCAIN: It is not the policy, it is not the policy, it is not the policy You can say that it is the policy, sir if you choose to. It is not the policy. I would be glad to get that to you in writing.


Towleroad News #gay

—  John Wright

In Maj. Witt’s upcoming DADT trial using the ‘Witt Standard,’ ‘facts are not on the government’s side’

Excellent editorial in the Tacoma News Tribune about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell with two key points: 1) the U.S. Department of Justice won’t be able to meet the “Witt standard” in the upcoming DADT trial of Major Margaret Witt — and it couldn’t meet that standard against Victor Fehrenbach and 2) DADT has to end.

On Witt:

A federal judge, in a trial set to begin Sept. 13, will apply a new standard to the military’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This time, the burden will be on the military to prove not that Witt is a lesbian – her sexual orientation is not in dispute – but that her homosexuality is harmful to her unit’s cohesiveness.

It will be the first judicial application of the so-called “Witt standard” established by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The Obama administration let pass a May 3 deadline to appeal the 9th’s decision to the Supreme Court, setting the stage for the trial in U.S. District Court next month.

The facts are not on the government’s side: More than a dozen of Witt’s colleagues have given sworn declaration objecting to her dismissal; one was so angry that he refused to re-enlist.

Should the Witt standard blunt the don’t ask, don’t tell policy as expected, it could prove a boon to gay service members who have been waiting on Congress – to date, in vain.

Waiting in vain for Congress — and the President.

The conclusion:

But the Witt standard is a stopgap measure and no more. It provides limited relief since it applies only to cases in Western states that make up the Ninth Circuit. And it isn’t preventing people like Jonathan Hopkins of Morton – a West Point graduate who led three combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan – from having to leave careers they love.

Don’t ask, don’t tell needs to go, and it’s up to the Senate to finish the job when it returns next month.

The Senate needs to finish the Defense bill in September and get it to conference ASAP. Delay hurts the chances for passing the compromise bill this year. Opponents of DADT repeal know that and will do everything possible to cause problems. Our allies, starting with the President, have to make sure that nothing interferes with the process of getting the compromise DADT bill signed into law..




AMERICAblog Gay

—  John Wright