U law professor’s book gets positive review in New York Times

John Hageman

University of Minnesota law professor Dale Carpenter's account of the Supreme Court decision that ruled sodomy laws unconstitutional got a glowing review in the New York Times. 

"Flagrant Conduct" details the Lawrence v. Texas case of 2003, which overturned a previous decision that ruled that the U.S. Constitution did not extend a fundamental right to engage in sodomy. 

The Times' David Oshinsky calls Carpenter's book a "stirring and richly detailed account" of the case.  He also praised the book for revealing previous-unreported details of the 1998 encounter that brought the case to the Supreme Court. 

The original account said four sheriff's deputies in Harris County, which includes Houston, responded to a report of someone waving a gun, entered an apartment and found two men having sex. The sheriff's deputies brought them to jail for violating the Texas sodomy laws. 

But both men, Tyron Garner and John Lawrence, dispute the claim that they were having sex. And Carpenter writes that "almost no one familiar with the incident believed the police report. The judge handling the case suspected that [lead officer Joseph] Quinn had eith made up or embellished the sex charge, and the county's top prosecutor seemed personally reluctant to pursue it." 

Both men pleaded no contest–the last words they said during their trial. 

The key line of the 2003 decision struck down the Bowers case that upheld sodomy laws. "Its continuance as precedent demeans the lives of homosexual persons," Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.