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Gay author featured at UChicago alumni event
by Carrie Maxwell, Windy City Times
2013-03-06

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About 75 people attended a University of Chicago (UChicago) LGBT alumni network event featuring out gay author and alumnus Dale Carpenter at the Center on Halsted on Feb. 11.

An Earl R. Larson professor of civil-rights and civil-liberties law at the University of Minnesota Law School, Carpenter—who graduated from Uchicago in 1992—teaches and writes about constitutional law, the First Amendment, and sexual orientation and the law. He previously clerked for the Honorable Edith H. Jones of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and practiced at two law firms. While at UChicago, Carpenter was the editor of the University of Chicago Law Review. He also received the D. Francis Bustin Prize for excellence in legal scholarship and the John M. Olin Foundation for Law and Economics.

Following an introduction by Vincenzo Barbetta, chair of UChicago's LGBT alumni network, Carpenter's spoke about his recently released book, Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas.

Lawrence v. Texas is the 2003 Supreme Court case that invalidated all of the remaining sodomy laws in the United States. The six to three ruling by the Supreme Court overturned the 1986 Supreme Court case, Bowers v. Hardwick. In the ruling the court said that intimate sexual conduct between consenting adults was protected by the due process clause in the Fourteenth Amendment.

In his remarks, Carpenter noted that his book is for everyone not just for constitutional lawyers. The book, Carpenter explained, chronicles the Lawrence case from beginning to end and includes information gathered from interviews with the plaintiffs, John Lawrence and Tyron Garner as well as various deputies, judges, and attorneys involved with the case. Carpenter shared the history of sodomy laws in the United States, what happened after the police arrived at Lawrence and Garner's doorstep on Sept. 17, 1998 and the Bowers case that preceded the Lawrence case.

During his interviews, Carpenter said that he got conflicting accounts of what happened the evening of the arrest. Carpenter said he doesn't believe that there was any sexual activity between Lawrence and Garner based on what he learned while researching the book. When Lambda Legal got involved with the case the lawyers convinced Lawrence and Garner to plead no contest to the charges, explained Carpenter. From there, Carpenter noted, the case winded its way through the courts for five years before being heard by the Supreme Court.

Carpenter noted that in the intervening years between the Bowers case and the Lawrence case the members of the Supreme Court could no longer claim that they had never met an LGBT person. Also, Carpenter noted that by overturning the sodomy laws the conservative Supreme Court would be following the country down this path since most of the states had already overturned their state laws concerning sodomy.

During the Q&A session Carpenter was asked about the marriage equality cases before the Supreme Court. Carpenter said it is difficult for him to predict the outcomes of both cases although he does believe that some progress towards marriage equality will be made. Other questions focused on the mismatch between the lawyers in the Lawrence case, marriage as a civil rights issue and conservative judges knowing LGBT people.

A reception was held immediately following the lecture and discussion.

See www.uchicagolgbtalumni.org for more information.


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