September 3, 2007
What Crime Did Larry
I don’t suppose it’s
worth asking this question now that Larry Craig has announced his
resignation from the U.S. Senate, but I’m wondering exactly when it
became illegal to ask someone for sexual favors in a public place.
Yes, soliciting sex
in a bathroom – where people tend to feel most vulnerable and in need of
privacy – is seedy and shameful, but I’m still not sure that it’s
By now, most of us
are familiar with the general direction things were headed in – man
solicits sex from man in neighboring stall, the neighbor says yes and
the two have sex. If the deed is done in the bathroom stall, I think
you’ve got a case for disorderly conduct. If the two go to an airport
hotel room, you have consensual sex.
Craig, as we all
know, was arrested at the first stage, when he was asking for sex.
To put this in
proper context, imagine if the police ran a similar sting in a
nightclub, trying to bust people for going out the back door and behind
the garbage cans. In Craig’s case, they arrested him for merely asking.
You don’t need to
buy Craig’s story about a wide stance, or picking up paper. I don’t know
anyone who does. But, criminal cases are built on evidence and not
assumptions. In Craig’s case, there is only the assumption that what
would have otherwise been consensual sex would have occurred in a public
Most of us know why
Craig was arrested when he was. From time to time, you run across
newspaper reports of police stings in other public places rumored to be
regular hangouts for homosexuals looking for somewhere to hook up. These
have occurred in parks, rest stops and public bathrooms (hence, Larry
This is, I think, a
very predictable result of our double-sided approach to the issue of
homosexuality. Most people, when you talk to them, say that they have no
problem with what two consenting adults do behind closed doors. Every
time some related issue comes up, however, it seems like the prevailing
mood is that when behind closed doors, those two consenting adults
should be fitting themselves into custom-built closets. You’re free to
be who you are, just as long as you don’t do it in public.
someone does something does not endorse it, and only means that you can
understand the series of events that led to something that you might
ultimately think is wrong. Obviously, asking someone in a bathroom stall
for sex is wrong. These kinds of activities don’t just violate the law,
but when they become apparent, they cause people who want to use a
public place for its intended purpose to avoid it. That makes it not
just wrong and illegal, but also unfair to everyone else.
Most people, when
given the option to either do something that is illegal or do something
socially acceptable, will err on the side of acceptability. This could
be why you don’t hear of groups of swinging singles using public parks
for clandestine hook-ups with members of the opposite sex.
While the topic is
raised, the cops in Minneapolis busted a U.S. senator in a sting, which
I suppose is a very big deal. Whether he actually broke a law is
something that we’ll probably never know because Craig plead guilty (his
guilty plea is a constant reminder that truth is not always the product
of our criminal justice system).
But, it also raises
a couple of questions – how much did the sting cost the department, and
can anyone think of a better use of money and police manpower? If the
answer to the last one is yes, then perhaps it means that the solution
doesn’t rest with the cops and courts, but with society at large.
© 2007 North Star Writers
Group. May not be republished without permission.
Click here to talk to our writers and
editors about this column and others in our discussion forum.
To e-mail feedback about this column,
click here. If you enjoy this writer's
work, please contact your local newspapers editors and ask them to carry
This is Column #
Request permission to publish here.