Tuesday, August 28, 2007


on june 11, less than a month after telling his state newspaper that he has never engaged in homosexual acts, 62-year-old republican senator larry craig of idaho was arrested in a minnesota airport men's room + charged with lewd conduct, a misemeanor.

sen. craig, who is married with three grown children, but whose homosexuality has been rumored for decades, pleaded guilty of the charge on august 8.

the story broke in the mainstream press yesterday.

as a u.s. senator, craig has repeatedly voted against gay rights + publicly supported a 2006 amendment to the idaho constitution banning state recognition of gay marriage + even civil unions (although in the recent interview he claimed to oppose only gay marriage, not civil unions). he supported the strongly antihomosexual federal defense of marriage act in 1996, as did, the liberals would like to forget, president clinton + other leading democrats.

as for his guilty plea, he now claims that he naively thought it would be a quiet, effective strategy to make the whole mess go away + now reasserts his innocence.

according to the recently publicized arrest report, this is what happened on june 11:

responding to complaints of sexual activity in the minneapolis airport men's room, the city sent a plainclothes police officer to check the situation out.

shortly after noon, craig peeked through the crack of the officer's stall door, sustaining eye contact with the plainclothesman for about two minutes. the cop returned the gaze, later reporting the fact that the senator had blue eyes, but neither party said a word to each other before the arrest.

the senator then entered the adjacent stall. craig slid his foot under the partition, + began tapping it, which the officer "recognized ... as a signal used by persons wishing to engage in lewd conduct." the senator repeated the action + moved his foot closer to the officer's foot. in response, the officer "moved [his] foot up + down slowly."

when craig reached his hand under the partition, the arrest was made. no money was exchanged. no words were spoken.

from what i have read, what the arresting officer did is not entrapment. he did not instigate communication with craig. he did not actively encourage craig to commit the misdemeanor.

apparently, it doesn't even matter that no public sex actually occurred, only a public attempt to procure sex, which, if performed at that location, would be defined as lewd conduct. it's hard to argue that craig wanted anything other than sex + sex right there + then (though craig now does contend the whole silent dialogue was simply a series of miscues + misunderstandings).

but here's my question: generally speaking, is looking for a sexual partner a crime? guys pick up women in public all the time + some women find the predatory nature of heterosexual males not only offensive but also physically threatening. but are plainclothes officers sent to hooters to catch men who signal their interest in getting laid?

i don't want to be facile about this--i understand that public restrooms at an airport are not comparable to hooters or any other meat-market environment. i also don't want to be thought to have any sympathy for sen. craig.

personally, sex in public restrooms is not my scene, not even my fantasy, but although straight men can't enter women's restrooms in search of sexual partners, seeking sex partners in lavatories is something gay men have done, simply because they could.

but is tapping one's foot a crime? is sustained eye contact in the men's room lewd conduct if both parties are doing it? all questions of hypocrisy + years of passing for straight aside, at what precise point did craig cross the line on june 11?

a little over 15 years ago, i participated in a news story about the treatment of homosexuals in pensacola, fl, the city i lived in at the time. my part in the story was simply to answer questions about what it was like to be gay in a hornet's nest of fundamentalist christians + conservative republicans in the early 1990s.

but during the interview the reporter told me he had found out that pensacola police went through rather thorough training on how to spot + pick up gay men--how even to "act gay" themselves--which, even now, i think would make a sidesplittingly funny subject for a short film, preferably a documentary.

the areas patrolled were public places: shopping malls, parks, + beaches. in contrast to what's reported above, the florida plainclothesmen often made the first advances, + if the other party was already known to be homosexual, even if he pushed the cop's hand away, they might arrest him for assault.

the reporter told me that the usual targets of these stings were closeted gay men, because, like craig, they could usually be depended on to plead guilty or no contest to hide the incident from friends + family, thus supplying the city with a fairly dependable source of non-tax income.

don't get me wrong. craig fully deserves whatever shitstorm may come his way. he's had to resign a rather important position in the mitt romney presidential campaign already. i have no sympathy for self-loathing individuals who make it their business to loathe me too +, worse, take legal means to hinder my pursuit of happiness.

fortunately for sen. craig, perhaps, his scandal has got to look like pretty small potatoes next to what his fellow republicans have stacked up in recent years.

my point is that i feel a little uncomfortable in seeing people, even bad people, arrested for acting on harmless desires + feelings. if only people could be charged with being hypocrites or assholes. that would make some sense to me.

still, you live by the sword, you die by the sword. sen. craig has made a career of fanning the flames of intolerance, + perhaps it's only justice for him to feel the heat now.

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