Read Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas by Dale Carpenter Online


No one could have predicted that the night of September 17, 1998, would be anything but routine in Houston, Texas. Even the call to police that a black man was "going crazy with a gun" was hardly unusual in this urban setting. Nobody could have imagined that the arrest of two men for a minor criminal offense would reverberate in American constitutional law, exposing a deepNo one could have predicted that the night of September 17, 1998, would be anything but routine in Houston, Texas. Even the call to police that a black man was "going crazy with a gun" was hardly unusual in this urban setting. Nobody could have imagined that the arrest of two men for a minor criminal offense would reverberate in American constitutional law, exposing a deep malignity in our judicial system and challenging the traditional conception of what makes a family. Indeed, when Harris County sheriff’s deputies entered the second-floor apartment, there was no gun. Instead, they reported that they had walked in on John Lawrence and Tyron Garner having sex in Lawrence’s bedroom.So begins Dale Carpenter’s "gripping and brilliantly researched" Flagrant Conduct, a work nine years in the making that transforms our understanding of what we thought we knew about Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark Supreme Court decision of 2003 that invalidated America’s sodomy laws. Drawing on dozens of interviews, Carpenter has taken on the "gargantuan" task of extracting the truth about the case, analyzing the claims of virtually every person involved.Carpenter first introduces us to the interracial defendants themselves, who were hardly prepared "for the strike of lightning" that would upend their lives, and then to the Harris County arresting officers, including a sheriff’s deputy who claimed he had "looked eye to eye" in the faces of the men as they allegedly fornicated. Carpenter skillfully navigates Houston’s complex gay world of the late 1990s, where a group of activists and court officers, some of them closeted themselves, refused to bury what initially seemed to be a minor arrest.The author charts not only the careful legal strategy that Lambda Legal attorneys adopted to make the case compatible to a conservative Supreme Court but also the miscalculations of the Houston prosecutors who assumed that the nation’s extant sodomy laws would be upheld. Masterfully reenacting the arguments that riveted spectators and Justices alike in 2003, Flagrant Conduct then reaches a point where legal history becomes literature, animating a Supreme Court decision as few writers have done.In situating Lawrence v. Texas within the larger framework of America’s four-century persecution of gay men and lesbians, Flagrant Conduct compellingly demonstrates that gay history is an integral part of our national civil rights story....

Title : Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas
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ISBN : 9780393062083
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 345 Pages
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Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas Reviews

  • Matt
    2019-03-10 17:52

    As any lawyer will tell you, law school is one of premiere rackets devised by mankind. As a vessel for imparting knowledge, it is as useful as the Titanic as commanded by an Italian cruise ship captain. Law schools rely on two pedagogical concepts: the Socratic method (wherein classes consist of a “dialogue” between professor and student); and the case-law method (wherein law is taught case-by-case, divining the “law of the case” one turgid opinion at a time). These methods assure that every law student leaves school both broke and unable to do the simplest legal tasks, such as drafting a complaint or deposing a witness. (If medical schools ran the same way, aspiring doctors would spend entire semesters learning about miasma theory and leeching). Attempting to learn the law by reading case after case is unspeakably stupid. It is also hard. I struggled mightily, for all the obvious reasons, and for a not-so-obvious one: I was always more interested in what happened behind the scenes. Each legal opinion is a story – told by the worst writers in history. Because appellate courts work off of the lower court record (and never see the case unfold personally), the facts are often incomplete or incorrect. And of course, appellate judges are interested in matters of law, not on matters pertaining to humanity. To fill in the tantalizing gaps, I’d find myself doing internet searches to learn the fates of legal-celebrities like Clarence Earl Gideon (of Gideon v. Wainwright, who won his case on retrial), Ernesto Miranda (of Miranda v. Arizona, who lost his case on remand, and who later died in a knife fight), and Richard & Mildred Loving (of Loving v. Virginia, the best named of all Supreme Court cases, who got married). All this extracurricular research distracted me from the important concepts I was supposed to be learning from the cases; I did, however, accumulate a great deal of trivia for happy hour. My interest in Flagrant Conduct is therefore obvious. It is singularly devoted to the human story behind one of my favorite Supreme Court decisions (and Antonin Scalia’s least favorite, which is only one of the reason it is my favorites). Dale Carpenter’s book is about the long, winding judicial journey of Lawrence v. Texas, the landmark opinion that overturned the odious Bowers v. Hardwick and struck down laws outlawing homosexual sodomy. Anthony Kennedy’s decision struck a singular blow against government overreach, governmental discrimination, and for personal liberty. It is not a rigorous analysis of the legal opinion itself (more on that in a bit), but is focused on the people who made it happen. Lawrence v. Texas started with a lovers’ quarrel. The three men involved were all gay: John Lawrence, Tyron Garner, and Robert Eubanks. Eubanks and Garner were dating. An angry and intoxicated Eubanks made an emergency call claiming that an armed man was in Lawrence’s apartment. Houston sheriff’s deputies arrived. The deputies, claiming exigent circumstances, burst into the apartment and – they claimed – caught Lawrence and Garner having sex in Lawrence’s bedroom. This activity, despite occurring between consenting adults within the confines of a private home, ran afoul of the Texas Homosexual Conduct law. The deputies could have done any one of several things. Nothing, would have been the best choice. They also could have issued a warning, or issued a citation for a Class C misdemeanor. Instead, probably because of Lawrence or Garner’s unruliness, the deputies arrested them and brought them to jail. (It bears noting, briefly, that both Lawrence and Garner later claimed to not be having sex that night. Carpenter belabors this point to the extent of an entire unnecessary chapter. It does not matter historically or legally whether or not they were engaged in anal sex. Yet there is an extended discussion on the issue). In order to challenge a criminal law, you have to have standing. In order to get standing, you have to get arrested and face some legal jeopardy. So far, the Texas Homosexual Conduct law had not been challenged; on the occasion that someone was charged, he or she usually pled as quickly as possible. That was about to change. A gay court clerk working for a Texas Justice of the Peace ended up talking about the case with a gay bartender/activist at a local gay bar. The activist, Lane Lewis, got Lawrence and Garner on board with testing the case. He then contacted Lambda Legal to set up representation. Lawrence v. Texas thereafter began its slow course to the highest court in the nation. It began with a no contest plea in front of a Justice of the Peace, and a $125 fine, plus court costs. The case went to the Texas Criminal Court, where Lawrence and Garner’s attorneys filed a motion to dismiss. Like clockwork (everyone knew this was a test case, and everyone, including judges and prosecutors, played their part), this motion was denied and the defendants once again pled no contest. Now, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals heard the case. Surprisingly, and a bit to the chagrin of the defendants (who were trying to get all the way to the top), a three-judge panel struck the law down as a violation of Texas’s Equal Rights Amendment. Soon after, the Fourteenth Court of Appeals met en banc and remembered that it was the Fourteenth Court of Appeals of Texas. The full panel of judges overturned the three-judge panel. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, forgetting it was their job to review cases of constitutional import, denied a request to hear the case. With all State court remedies exhausted, the defendants filed a petition for certiorari to the United States Supreme Court, which took the case. Justice Anthony Kennedy, writing for a six-justice majority, struck the Texas law as a violation of the 14th Amendment’s Due Process Clause. Carpenter tells this story with a keen emphasis on the individuals involved. He devotes a great deal of space to the history of gay activism in Houston, and to the otherwise normal, forgettable men who got caught in the whirlwind. Carpenter goes so far as to include mini-biographies of each of the police officers involved in the arrest. In other words, every human touch that is lost in the dry legalese of judicial opinions is recorded here. (He really shines in his description of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court. The Texas advocate went on bluster alone and got three votes. This, I suppose, tells you a lot about oral arguments). Carpenter is a law professor at the University of Minnesota, but he does not write like one. Flagrant Conduct never gets bogged down in lawyer-speak. He writes for an audience who never made the mistake of going to law school. When he has to use a Latin phrase, he defines it. When he guides you through the tortured procedural history of this case, it’s not to impress you with his technical knowledge constitutional law, it’s to emphasize how remarkable it is that the case of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner ever came into being. If anything, Carpenter errs too much on the side of pure storytelling, rather than analysis. I would have liked to have seen a couple things from him. First, a better explanation of the important constitutional cases leading up to Lawrence. This case did not happen in a constitutional vacuum. It was the end result of Griswold v. Connecticut, Roe v. Wade, Eisenstadt v. Baird, Romer v. Evans, and the hiccup of Bowers v. Hardwick. Carpenter mentions these cases, but never places them into any sort of context. (If you want to know more, you can look these cases up…or read my unpublished law review case note on Arkansas v. Pryor, advocating a fundamental right to access sex toys).My other complaint is that Carpenter never really explains the Lawrence decision. Instead, he celebrates it. Clearly, he believes Lawrence to be an unquestioned triumph. I happen to agree wholeheartedly with the result on any number of levels (as a person with gay friends and family; as a person who doesn’t want the State telling me what to do in the bedroom; as a person who definitely doesn’t want the police getting a no-knock after-dark warrant to burst into my bedroom to see what I’m doing, even if all I’m doing is dozing in a haze of Z-Quill). Obviously, I have an opinion on this subject. In internet terms, this means I have a bias. But I didn't like this book simply because of that. I liked it, as I explained above, because I'm a legal nerd. To that end, I think Carpenter is more than a bit blithe in his trumpeting of Lawrence v. Texas. He never acknowledges that this case is extremely controversial. It is built upon the unsteady edifice of “substantive due process,” which Carpenter barely discusses. I can understand not wanting to get completely sidetracked, since this is heady argument, but there should be a basic elucidation if only so interested readers can understand why Scalia’s head almost exploded after reading Kennedy’s decision. (I think Justice O’Connor makes a better legal argument by resting the case on the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. Of course, that meant Texas could have gone back to outlawing all sodomy, straight or gay.). This is a propitious time to read this book. This summer – the Summer of 2015 – the United States Supreme Court may decide the last great battle of the gay civil rights movement. This is the story of the first great victory. As a tactical matter, the Lawrence appellants stayed as far away from gay marriage as they possibly could. They knew it was easier to sell privacy in the bedroom than homosexual weddings. But Scalia saw through that. In a blistering rebuttal, in which he attacks the majority for signing onto the “homosexual agenda,” Justice Scalia wrote:Today's opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned. If moral disapprobation of homosexual conduct is "no legitimate state interest" for purposes of proscribing that conduct; and if, as the Court coos (casting aside all pretense of neutrality), "[w]hen sexuality finds overt expression in intimate conduct with another person, the conduct can be but one element in a personal bond that is more enduring"; what justification could there possibly be for denying the benefits of marriage to homosexual couples exercising "[t]he liberty protected by the Constitution"? Surely not the encouragement of procreation, since the sterile and the elderly are allowed to marry. This case "does not involve" the issue of homosexual marriage only if one entertains the belief that principle and logic have nothing to do with the decisions of this Court. Many will hope that, as the Court comfortingly assures us, this is so.Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 604-605 (Scalia, J. dissenting) (internal citations omitted). Justice Scalia is a very smart man. I hope, in this one instance, that he is right.

  • Paige
    2019-03-01 20:31

    Required reading for class.

  • Tex Reader
    2019-02-28 01:33

    4.5 of 5 stars – Engrossing Backstory of Courage, Strategy & Serendipity. This book wonderfully captured a piece of underrated glbtq+ history, one that paved the way for the later marriage equality rulings. In a clear way, this dealt with the legal aspects of the case. But more than that, it gave life to the story by delving into the lives of the people involved and how this minor arrest became a landmark Supreme Court decision in glbtq+ history. Dale Carpenter captured my interest in many ways in explaining this case and exploring its colorful backstory. Most compelling for me was the story of the two men at the center. John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were just two regular gay guys, involved in what seemed a minor arrest, just one of many in gay history. They were not media darlings, far from it – not articulate in front of the press, didn’t have a compelling love story, in fact a minority in a minority as an interracial gay couple. Thus even today we don’t think of them, but instead of those other brave souls in the marriage equality cases. Still, these two didn’t have to bare their souls and go the route they did in letting the powers that be use their case as an avenue to test and ultimately overthrow the sodomy laws of the country. It took courage and earned my respect. And then I learned of all the twists and lucky happenstances in the case. I enjoyed all the little tidbits – (view spoiler)[they were really innocent, not doing anything and later told to be quiet about it, it was a jealous boyfriend who called them in with a false claim, the arresting officer happened to be a homophobe, no one had been arrested like this in years, the case was picked up only after a casual conversation between a closeted court clerk with a bartender in a gay bar, there were questions about whether they were the right couple to test this, the case could easily have been resolved early on, it was argued by a closeted gay attorney, and the state completely mishandled it. (hide spoiler)] So, fate stepped in. Along the way, I learned of the larger context of the long history of sodomy laws, and of the legal strategizing and maneuvering done on all sides. Even this was told in a straightforward, understandable way, and also served as a glimpse into the broader glbtq+ history itself. And full disclosure – the timing of this was of particular significance for me. I came out just the year before; and that June just after the decision, I marched in my first pride parade … where I, as well as many others reveled in the fact that we were no longer criminals in the eyes of the law.

  • Brittany Kubes
    2019-02-23 23:34

    Fascinating contextual backdrop to the heroic case of Texas v. Lawrence (2003), the U.S. Supreme Court case that took the crime of “homosexual conduct” (i.e. sodomy OR oral sex) off the books. Yes, “homosexual conduct” was illegal in some states up until 2003.Carpenter spends too much time assessing the facts, timing, and stories of all the people involved to theorize whether or not Garner and Lawrence were actually having sex the day the Texas cops busted into the apartment. It seems they probably were not. But the more important thing is: it doesn’t matter. It’s funny that it doesn’t matter, but neither side – the State nor the defense – wanted the real facts to ever be tried or to come to light. The State, because then the cops would have been egregious in misconduct (“Black guy, white guy, apartment, naked” = perfect cop-lying-breeding-ground). And the defense, because if there was no sex, they would not be able to make a claim that people can have sex in the privacy of their homes.What a serendipitous string of strange events coming together to create Texas v. Lawrence. The officers had to arrest the 2 men, even though “homosexual conduct” was merely a fine (and not an arrestable offense). The common-man defendants had to be interested in pleading no contest, appealing the case to the highest court, and losing any modicum of privacy. The gay judicial clerk talking about the incident at a gay bar, where a gay activist heard about it and got in touch with infamous civil rights lawyers. The Texas courts finding that the “homosexual conduct” statute was constitutional, allowing the defense team to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The U.S. Supreme Court granting cert to review! The rather conservative Court striking down the law!It was super interesting to get this view “behind the scenes” of a case making its way to the USSC: the way the lawyers constructed the case in focusing on the family concept, as opposed to the right to have homosexual sex, or how they consulted numerous attorneys who had been clerks to certain justices on the Supreme Court in drafting their briefs. Even though I knew what the ultimate decision was by the Court, my body broke out into chills – a feel-good moment: gays have some rights, according to the U.S. Supreme Court.

  • Khris Sellin
    2019-03-14 19:35

    Fascinating deconstruction of the Lawrence v. Texas Supreme Court case.In 1998, Houston police received a call that there was a "crazy black man with a gun" at an apartment. They went to the scene, found no gun (it was a false report by a jealous boyfriend), but allegedly discovered two men engaged in a sexual act, IN THE BEDROOM, IN THE PRIVACY OF THEIR OWN HOME. They were arrested, booked, and charged with violating Texas's antisodomy laws. Carpenter does a great job of laying out the background, with the history of the sodomy law -- which was rewritten over & over again, more narrowly each time, seemingly zeroing in on homosexuals only -- and the local political scene in Houston at the time the case was making its way through the court system. We get to know all the players in this story, and he gives us a real sense of where each of them stood politically, socioeconomically, and philosophically. Once you learn all the details of this case and how it all came about, it's amazing that it actually found its way to the Supreme Court. A miraculous achievement and great legal work by all involved on the Lawrence team, making history and setting the stage for the advancement of gay rights and marriage equality.

  • Sylvia
    2019-03-19 17:42

    I'm very disturbed that Goodreads has capitalized the V. in the title.ETA: They've fixed it!

  • Jayakrishnan
    2019-03-02 01:30

    On Constitution Day in 1998, in Harris County in the outskirts of Houston, Texas, two (adult) men were arrested for (allegedly) engaging in a (consensual) sexual act (in private). They did not contest the charges levied against them, instead they challenged the constitutional validity of the law they were charged with. Their case, on appeal, went to the US Supreme Court and there, the men won – and so did millions of gay and lesbian Americans . This, in a nutshell, is the story of Lawrence v. Texas.There already is a voluminous amount of literature on Lawrence , for it is the case which made same-sex sexual activity legal across the United States. But all those publications – mostly footnote ridden articles on constitutional law – are invariably about the opinion of the Supreme Court, which was only the climax of a five year long litigation, and more importantly, of a much longer struggle for equal citizenship.Dale Carpenter's Flagrant Conduct, on the other hand, is a 'people's history of Lawrence v. Texas,' the hitherto unwritten story of those Americans who came together – some willingly, some unwillingly, some knowingly, some unknowingly – and made history. The participants included a group of devoted lawyers who assiduously litigated the case, a bartender—activist, a closeted gay court clerk, a closeted lesbian prosecutor, a Justice of the Peace who understood the import of this mere class-C misdemeanor case, state court judges in Texas who were elected in partisan elections(!), a bunch of conservative “family values” politicians, a district attorney and his deputy, the unelected, life-tenured Justices of the US Supreme Court, the police officers who made what was arguably the most significant arrest in the queer history of the United States, and of course, the homosexuals – John Geddes Lawrence and Tyron Garner. Based on extensive interviews with all of them (except the Judges), Carpenter's account is a thoroughly compelling read. He painstakingly recounts all the minutiae that were left out, concealed or forgotten from the oft-told tale of Lawrence. For instance, look at the opinion of the Supreme Court, which begins with the following brief statemet of facts:In Houston, Texas, officers of the Harris County Police Department were dispatched to a private residence in response to a reported weapons disturbance. They entered an apartment where one of the petitioners, John Geddes Lawrence, resided. The right of the police to enter does not seem to have been questioned. The officers observed Lawrence and another man, Tyron Garner, engaging in a sexual act. The two petitioners were arrested, held in custody over night, and charged and convicted before a Justice of the Peace. Straight from the arresting Officer's report, this account was all that the Court, and just about everyone, knew about the the facts of the case. Yet there is more to the story. To begin with, it is likely that Lawrence and Garner never engaged in any sexual act! Their arrests, in all likelihood, were prompted only by a homophobic police officer's squeamishness about the homoerotic sketches found in Lawrence's apartment, as well as with an evidently effeminate African-American man, the co-defendant Tyron Garner.Flagrant Conduct begins with a survey of sodomy laws in Texas. Much like elsewhere in the West, sodomy or “the crime against nature... committed with mankind or beast” had long been criminalized in Texas. The laws were revised from time to time, before zeroing in exclusively on sexual acts between members of the same sex. Thus, after the adoption of Section 21.06 of the Texas Penal Code in 1973, as Carpenter tartly observes, “it was legal to have sex with an animal, but not with another person of the same sex.” This lack of pedigree of the same-sex-only nature of the statute would be pointed out at the oral argument in the Supreme Court. The author also traces a brief history of the gay rights movement in Houston, which over the course of years made several unsuccessful attempts at repealing Section 21.06. With the legislative door closed on them, the only recourse gay rights activists in Texas had was to challenge the constitutionality of the statute in a court of law. And they were waiting for a 'test case,' which Lawrence would become.After introducing the principal players in the first act -- the Defendants, Lawrence and Garner, and the Troublemaker, Robert Royce Eubanks, the on-again, off-again boyfriend of Garner's, and the four Deputies in the Harris County Sheriff's Office who arrested Lawrence and Garner following a phone call from Eubanks about a “black male going crazy with a gun,” Carpenter then diligently chronicles the dramatic events of the night of the arrest. What ensued was a fascinating combination of happenstance, activism and litigation, all enabled by two ordinary working class gay Americans' refusal to be cowered by the ruthless treatment they received at the hands of the state. The case ended up in Justice of the Peace Mike Parrot's Court, where it was processed by a gay clerk Nathan Broussard, who without quite realizing the significance of the case, mentioned it to a bartender, Lane Lewis. Active in the gay civil rights movement, Lewis gathered the details of the arrest; contacted Lawrence and Garner, and convinced them to change their initial 'not guilty' pleas to 'no contest'; consulted a well regarded local gay attorney, Mitchell Katine, who in turn informed Suzanne Goldberg, an attorney at Lambda Legal, of the potential test-case.The next judicial stop was the Harris County Criminal Court, where the “first substantive constitutional arguments in Lawrence v. Texas were sprouted.” There, Lawrence and Garner plead 'no contest,' the last words the two men ever said in a court about their case. Rejecting the defense's motion to have the prosecutions quashed on the ground that the Texas law violated the State and the Federal Constitutions, the Court found both Lawrence and Garner guilty, and assessed their punishments at $200 each.On appeal, when a three judge panel of Texas Fourteenth Court of Appeals considered the constitutional arguments advanced by Lambda, and in a 2-1 vote decided in favor of the defendants, the lawyers at Lambda found themselves in a dilemma. They were hoping to use the Lawrence case to get the US Supreme Court to reconsider its 1986 decision in Bowers v. Hardwick, which had callously rejected the claim that “the Federal Constitution confers upon homosexuals a fundamental right to engage in sodomy.” The premature victory in a local Texas court would preclude Lambda from proceeding further. In short, the case was won, but the cause was lost. But thanks to the Texas Republican Party, the case was kept alive. Days after the panel decision, the Texas GOP adopted a platform denouncing homosexuality and rebuking the two 'activist' Judges who invalidated the 'homosexual law'. Following this political backlash, the full bench of the Appeals Court, composed of nine elected judges, even without hearing oral arguments, reversed the panel in a 7-2 decision. More than a year later, the Court of Criminal Appeals, the highest court in Texas dealing with criminal law issues, rejected Lambda's petition for review. All hurdles cleared, Lawrence was now headed to the US Supreme Court. Lawyers at Lambda now had to make a critical decision -- selecting a lawyer to present oral arguments at the Supreme Court. From a pool of potential candidates, they picked Paul Smith, a veteran lawyer in an elite Washington law firm. The selection was was an “extra personal burden for Smith,” for he was one of the many closeted gay lawyers who had clerked at the Supreme Court for Justice Lewis Powell, who cast the decisive fifth vote in Bowers to uphold Georgia's sodomy law. Justice Powell, while deliberating Bowers, is reported to have remarked to his yet another closeted gay law clerk that he had never met a homosexual. With Powell “looming large in the background, psychologically,” and guided by an army of seasoned Supreme Court practitioners in addition to Lambda's lawyers, Paul Smith did a masterful job at the oral argument. With felicity, he “articulated the substantive idea that sexual intimacy among gay Americans was a good thing, not merely a tolerable thing.” Pitted against Smith was Chuck Rosenthal, the District Attorney of Harris County. An accomplished jury-trial lawyer, Rosenthal was woefully inept to litigate at the Supreme Court. While he fumbled at the podium, the Justices “effectively argued among themselves, using Rosenthal as a foil,” finally forcing a gentle admonition from the Chief Justice to “go through Counsel.” Carpenter's account of this “mismatch at the Supreme Court” is deeply engrossing. On June 26, 2003, two days before the anniversary of the Stonewall riots, the Supreme Court announced its decision overruling Bowers. Justice Anthony Kennedy's majority opinion was a paean to liberty. “Their [the petitioners'] right to liberty under the Due Process Clause gives them the full right to engage in their conduct without intervention of the government. It is a promise of the Constitution that there is a realm of personal liberty which the government may not enter,” he wrote. And unequivocally held that “Bowers was not correct when it was decided, and it is not correct today. It ought not to remain binding precedent. Bowers v. Hardwick should be and now is overruled.”In an angry dissenting opinion, Justice Antonin Scalia lambasted the majority opinion, a “product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda.” He warned that “[t]oday’s opinion dismantles the structure of constitutional law that has permitted a distinction to be made between heterosexual and homosexual unions, insofar as formal recognition in marriage is concerned.” Justice Scalia's prophetic warning would ultimately come true a decade later, through yet another opinion by Justice Kennedy, provoking yet another dissent from Scalia. John Lawrence did not live long enough to see that day, but his eponymous case, as Carpenter notes, had already “challenged not only the American legal order but ultimately the cultural assumptions that undergirded it.” --- ----As I write this, with Republicans in the White House and Congress, and the still remaining members of the Lawerence majority aging on the Supreme Court, an assault on marriage-equality had already begun in Texas, and a chill wind blows.

  • Nick Smith
    2019-03-02 20:32

    In 1998, police responding to a report of a man with a gun entered a residence at an apartment complex in Houston. When they went inside, they claim to have witnessed two men having sex....or at least 2 of the 4 officers witnessed it....except both men denied it, reporting instead that they had never been intimate, had never had a romantic or sexual relationship, and that they were certainly not having sex after hearing the police scream "Sheriff's Office! Sheriff's Office! Sheriff's Office!" loudly in their apartment, just feet away. Common sense tells most of us that if we heard those words, we would quickly stop whatever we were doing.So, with this report, the police who entered, arrested both men. They put them in handcuffs. They dragged one man, John Lawrence, down the stairs, making his legs bleed. They hauled them to jail and kept them overnight. Lawrence's name would go on to the famous Supreme Court case, "Lawrence Vs. Texas."This is the story about how gay-rights advocates and lawyers got involved with a case. They'd been looking for an opportunity to challenge state sodomy laws, which outlaw adults having sex in their own homes, privately. They took up the case and took it through the Texas courts, all the way to the United States Supreme Court. After they won, Lambda lawyer Jenny Pizer had this to say:"This is our Declaration of Independence. We now have the right to love and to make love. We have the right to be fabulous." Even Justice Antonin Scalia couldn't stop the rising tide of acceptance towards LGBT persons in America. And as we know, more freedoms came after this decision of 2003.But let's remember John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, who were dragged from their homes, hauled to jail, and charged with "Homosexual Conduct," in addition to being ridiculed and called names by the arresting officers. They had to walk past signs saying that God hated them to get into the Supreme Court. But when they left, it didn't matter who hated them...They now had the right to be who they are...And not be criminals, any longer.

  • Adam Dunn
    2019-02-19 23:36

    Another reviewer put it very well, that they'd like to read a long article on the subject. I completely agree and found a whole book to be to much. I resolve to never again read a book on the American political system, and after this book my interest in long articles is waning. The us-and-them bi-partisan mentality with elected judges really turns my stomach.The book was interesting and I read it partly as I couldn't believe there was anti-sodomy laws prohibiting oral sex as recently as 2004 in North America. That being said I can understand some of what was being dealt with, there still is a lot of macho guys in law enforcement. It amazes me when I watch COPS filmed in the South. They catch a criminal and say "You should be a man and confess" and like every time the guy says "Yeah, okay, I did it." Like this stranger who I don't like is calling my manhood into question? Ok, then I'll do five years in jail. Crazy! And how to you logically change that type of mentality?I liked the historical aspect of the book involving the detailing of anti-sodomy laws for the last 400 years but found it very short. In particular:"dropping a nickel on a sister" involved telephoning a gay acquaintance's employer, informing the employer of the person's homosexuality, getting his fired, and then applying for the vacant position.The fact that this happened often enough that there was a name for it floored me. The police in the case were clearly homophobic:"That whole apartment smelled of gay," he told one interviewer. "An anal odor."And this brings up another aspect I didn't like of the book. To my knowledge there are no books out there proving that aliens HAVEN'T landed, or that vampires DON'T exist. Everyone knows this stuff. In a similar fashion I don't think we need 40 pages explaining why it's improbable the defendants in this case were having sex, or 50 pages explaining why this wasn't part of a conspiracy theory. If you're going to set up the police you don't do it with a drunk inter-racial hillbilly threesome. Done. I don't think anyone really questions that.The Texas arguments often floored me:"...privacy was not an issue in the case because the sexual conduct of the men became public when police entered the bedroom."This kind of leads to what I saw as the biggest problem, the law was unenforceable. You can't regulate what two consenting adults do behind closed doors as the door is closed. Too often the arguments would veer off into irrelevant territory. For example, in the Supreme Court, Texas had someone file a brief on their behalf which said:"[Adultery] laws would arguably 'burden' Fred's and Wilma's constitutional right to intimacy with Barney and Betty, individually or all together."So often the case went off point, and no one seemed to be able to bring it back. This was not a referendum on homosexuality and whether you liked it, which is what the state tried to make it. This is about one specific point. I didn't highlight the passage but when the team was presenting arguments and the most conservative judge on the Supreme Court asked something about whether this will lead to pedophilia and scout master sleep-overs, how do you even answer that? I don't have the restraint to be able to argue this case. Did you read the case? Where in here did you see a child, where in here did you see a scout, and how do I know what this will open up, am I a travelling fortune-teller? Get back to the case!While I agree that:"A majority should not be able to give itself full freedom to engage in certain conduct but prohibit it to a minority for no better reason that, as Smith characterized it, 'we want it that way.'"So much of the argument presented was "we're just like them" which whether we're like them or not seemed to have little to do with the case. Partisan politics ran SO deeply that the book mentions:"...three of Justice Kennedy's four clerks were, in fact, conservatives."So not only do we know the politics of the judges, but of their clerks. How is any of this relevant? Surely issues of human rights decided by the highest court in the country should be based on reason and law, and not on the whims of the current political party. How can the people have any faith in a system run this way???In his dissenting opinion, one justice "intoned that many Americans did not want known homosexuals to work in their businesses, serve as scoutmasters for their children, be teachers in their schools, live as borders in their homes, or serve in their military." Again, which of these things were on trial?!?!? Yikes this frustrated me.An interesting book that raised questions but got me riled. I need more calming reading.

  • Aubree
    2019-02-28 20:30

    I picked up Flagrant Conduct after hearing about the Lawrence v. Texas case on Radiolab's new spinoff podcast about the Supreme Court, More Perfect (check it out, it's fascinating!). I remembered the case from high school government class--we were taught only that Texas police had mistakenly thought there was a gunman in an apartment, and instead walked in on two men engaging in sex who were subsequently arrested under the state's antisodomy law. The real truth is, as always, more nuanced and interesting.For reasons well discussed in Carpenter's book, the defendants in Lawrence v. Texas were shielded from the media, who surprisingly respected their privacy. This plus the expert strategy of their attorneys (led by Lambda Legal) meant that much of the public is unaware that the sexual act the police claimed to witness was unlikely to have ever happened at all. This very fact illuminates the real issue with the Homosexual Conduct Law that was overturned by the Supreme Court: it was in practice not a conduct law, but a "status" law, effectively making being homosexual illegal. The status of gay Americans as criminals permeated into their lives in myriad ways.Carpenter organizes his book into three parts. First he explains the historical context of gay discrimination, antisodomy law, and the gay rights movement, especially in Texas. He covers the actual arrests of Lawrence and Garner and what most likely had happened that night. Finally, he delves into what happens after the arrests, ending with the Supreme Court decision and an epilogue about the state of gay rights in our country and the lives of Lawrence and Garner after the fact. Each chapter is informed by interviews from parties involved in the defense and state sides.This book is generally an easy read. The chapters explaining the Supreme Court briefs and oral arguments might require a little extra rereading for those who are less familiar with constitutional argument. I thought Carpenter expertly wove the human story within the legalese, which keeps the story engaging. I'd recommend Flagrant Conduct for anyone who is interested in LGBT issues, law in general, and the fascinating process of bringing a case in front of the Supreme Court.

  • Lark
    2019-03-17 00:45

    An important book. As he sets the context of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner's 1998 arrest, Carpenter delves heavily into the political landscape of 1980s Houston. Having come of age politically in the Houston area myself during these years, I am reminded of how political rhetoric was dominated by the stuff of culture wars and bigotry. (I am also left curious as to the real issues that were obscured by hyperbole and homophobia. Actual policy issues? Who knows. But we can all remember Louie Welch and the associated craziness. Assuredly there are policy issues involving real people, real money, real quality of life issues (ie, contaminants, torts, de-regulation, etc) we now live with daily--the legislative roots of which were sown in the 1980s. But the public was treated then, instead, to diatribes involving anal sex and scripture, etc etc.).Carpenter doesn't mention a dollar amount, but the tax payers of the State of Texas footed the bill for what turned out to be a half-hearted, incompentent, and, at times, even shame-faced defense of a law that, by their own admission, most of the people who were defending didn't even believe should be on the books. The financial impact of defending the indefensible would make an excellent book. How many government dollars are wasted on keeping culture wars going? As Lawrence v. TX progresses through the court system, Carpenter explains how the Texas legal system's integrity is corrupted at every turn by partisan politics and electoral rhetoric. (Texas elects its judges, many of whom have no legal training at all.) Carpenter explains how Texas follows national social progress rather than leads it, and makes it clear that the legal system impacts real people in their everyday lives in ways that have nothing to do with the actual enforcement of legal statutes. I finished _Flagrant Conduct_ wondering how many ways the incompentent, dumbed-down political (and, logically, the judicial) landscape of Texas affects real people daily. Ah, but that's another book. What a lot of fiscal waste.

  • Emily
    2019-03-08 01:48

    Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas by Dale Carpenter, went a bit long. If you remember, Lawrence v. Texas is the 2003 Supreme Court decision declaring anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional. John Lawrence and Tyron Garner were arrested in Lawrence's apartment for having consensual sex with each other under the Texas Homosexual Conduct Law and their Class C misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $200 went all the way to the Supreme Court. (One of the shockers in Flagrant Conduct is that Lawrence and Garner were not having sex. They were not even canoodling. They may have been in different rooms when police burst into Lawrence's apartment.) Interestingly, Texas' laws proscribing fornication, adultery, and heterosexual sodomy were stricken from the books in 1973, leaving homosexual sodomy the only sexcrime in Texas. Queer activists argued that anti-sodomy laws led to a perception of all homosexuals as potential criminals. But to overturn a law you need a case to appeal and anti-sodomy laws were rarely enforced, so when Lawrence and Garner were arrested by a Harris County (Houston) officer who had a history of arresting people for minutiae, Lambda jumped and contacted Lawrence and Garner, who wonderfully agreed to let Lambda take their case through the appeals courts. At the first court date, at Lambda's request, the Justice of the Peace kindly raised the mens' fine from the $100 he had initially imposed to $125, allowing Lambda to appeal. Lawrence v. Texas becomes a courtroom drama, but not "I believe the murderer is in this very room" courtroom drama. There is interesting discussion of the legal arguments related to Lawrence v. Texas and Bowers v. Hardwick, the previous Supreme Court ruling upholding Georgia's anti-sodomy law. Texas put little work into the defense of its own law throughout and, in the end, made a hash of its Supreme Court defense. Lawrence won, but Flagrant Conduct could have been better edited. Not all non-fiction needs to run three hundred pages.

  • Paul Rhodes
    2019-03-21 00:51

    I suppose I should write something. Fine. The book was a fairly interesting read. A page turner, in fact. That's why I gave it three stars. But it should be said that I find it hard to understand homosexual relations as Mr. Carpenter and the defense attorneys in Lawrence want me to understand them, namely as a means to solidify the bonds of companionship and family. The "official facts" of the case (which Carpenter argues--persuasively by my lights--probably never happened) actually betoken precisely the opposite, that homosexual relations lead to discord. That said, the Texan Law against Homosexual Conduct was stupid and should have been struck down. Texas had legalized bestiality, and if that state was okay with bestiality, it should have had no problems with men either buggering or fellating each other. Also, that whole one's-home-is-one's-castle thing. The state should have as few grounds to violate that precious principle as possible, and deterring what is essentially mutual masturbation is hardly a compelling reason for a police state. Yeah, I think mutual masturbation is vile and immoral. But if its decriminalization gives the state one fewer reason to be fascist, then I am, of course, all for it. So, I have no problems whatsoever with overturning Sodomy Laws on the grounds that they are intolerable excuses to let the cops to romp into your home anytime they damn well please. But to say that homosexual acts are necessary for the strengthening of familial bonds is a bit much especially in a case where the two men allegedly caught in flagrante delicto were--if they actually did what the lead cop said they did (and they probably did not)--actually cheating on their respective lovers!

  • Greg Stoll
    2019-03-03 21:48

    Very interesting book about the sodomy law in Texas and how it was struck down in 2003. It starts with the background of both the people involved in the case and the city of Houston w.r.t gay rights (which I found fascinating, having grown up there and never picked up on any of that stuff). Then the arrest in question, in which the author convincingly argues that Lawrence and Garner were probably not, in fact, having sex when the officers walked in. Somehow that makes the whole case more poignant - that the law was just being used because the officers were (understandably) upset that someone had called in claiming a guy had a gun when that wasn't true, and generally down on gay people. (after Lawrence and Garner got lawyers they told them not to talk to anyone, because they wanted to challenge the law even though they probably hadn't broken it!)Then the author traces how the case was brought to the attention of Lambda Legal (helped out by some closeted people in the judiciary), and culminates in the argument before the Supreme Court. I was surprised that the Harris County DA was very unprepared and got totally hammered during his oral arguments.The book also makes the point (as did Paul Smith, who gave the oral arguments for the plaintiffs) that the law was about more than just sex - it was used to justify discrimination since gay people were presumably law-breakers. I remember the feeling of oppression that I had before 2003 knowing that the law was on the books, even though it was very rarely enforced.Anyway, you may not like this book as much if you're not interested in the Supreme Court, gay rights, and didn't grow up in Houston, but I ate it up :-)

  • Aaron Haberman
    2019-03-21 18:50

    Written by a constitutional law scholar, this book offers a great overview of this landmark Supreme Court case that outlawed all state anti-sodomy laws, and may eventually be seen as the equivalent of the Brown decision for gay Americans. Carpenter was able to interview most of the major players in the case, which led to the book's "big reveal," that the two men arrested for sodomy in September 1998, that led to this case, most likely were not having sex that night. Though clearly a book that will appeal to constitutional historians and scholars, Carpenter writes in an accessible manner that a general reader with at least a passing interest in modern Supreme Court history, or the history of gay rights, will find enjoyable. The book is a useful primer on how cases like this work their way through the legal apparatus, and just how unlikely, this or most cases ever have of getting to the Supreme Court. Carpenter also provides a nice history of anti-sodomy laws, the gay rights movement in modern America, and the larger social context of Houston, Texas in the late 1990s when the arrest took place. Lastly, Carpenter's description of the oral arguments before the Supreme Court is quite riveting. After reading his account of the oral arguments I went to the website,, which has recordings and transcripts of all the oral arguments before the Supreme Court since the late 1950s, and listened to the oral arguments in this case. It's fun to hear the give and take between the justices and lawyers and compare my impression to that of Carpenter (who was in the Court the day of the argument). An excellent book all the way around.

  • Korri
    2019-03-18 23:43

    In this compelling page turner, Carpenter dissects the facts behind and circuitous routes through which the arrests of Tyron Garner and John Geddes Lawrence led to a landmark Supreme Court case. He examines the historical, social, legal, and personal factors and forces at play as well as the veracity of the major actors’ claims. It seems like the stars aligned for the personalities and legal statutes to be framed in such a way that lawyers had the perfect case, if not the perfect clients. In the early stages, lawyers were unintentionally abetted by moderate conservative judges who agreed with their arguments and by the rage those decisions produced among religious groups. Carpenter takes readers through the intricacies of the law and the court system—this case could have been ‘won’ and the constitutional challenge lost or it could’ve been thrown out so many times before ever reaching the highest court. He highlights how arguments were crafted to make the case palatable for SCOTUS: ‘The Lawrence team was making the most conservative argument possible for a constitutional right to sex. Overturning the Texas law would be a vindication of traditional American values—like respect for the individual, autonomy, privacy, relationships, the home, families—in a changed world.’ (p. 194) In case anyone was wondering, that’s why there was no arguing it was sex discrimination. This was a fascinating and quick read. I thought law texts and histories of law were a bit tedious, but Carpenter has a lightness and zest that made me zip through the book.

  • Harold
    2019-03-15 22:42

    This is the story of Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court case which ruled the sodomy law of Texas (and thus sodomy laws in general) unconstitutional. This would be a good magazine article, but in stretching it into a book the author strives to tell the entire history, from beginning to end. The problem is that the beginning is both dull and unnecessary. We don't need to know about Lawrence and his co-defendant Garner, or the policemen who arrested them. We don't really need to know whether they were, or were not, having sex, or that the cop was a a homophobe. This is not one of those cases where the protagonists were part of a strategy that makes these items important. Here they were merely random targets of a law which was almost never enforced. Other than agreeing to (let others) wage war on the statute, rather than simply pleading and paying a fine, they were not a fact in either the case, or in the politics. Even the reporting of the lower courts is only occasionally interesting. The history of the case In the Supreme Court, on the other hand, is a fascinating, and the heart of the story. Well written, detailed and emotional it is the saga of the law, and how the law affects people. Even the reader.

  • Steven
    2019-03-15 22:54

    A very readable history of one of the most important U.S. Supreme Court cases in my lifetime. You know -- Lawrence v. Texas, the one that said I was no longer living a life of crime just by leading my day-to-day life in my home state. From the incident itself (which probably didn't even really happen!) up through the final decision, this is really quite a riveting story. It was most interesting to see how a seminal case like this is handled by a national organization through the process, carefully ensuring that it makes its way to the highest court. I was really impressed by how smart and politically astute the Lawrence team was, and dumbfounded at the lackluster defense that Texas brought to the table. I got the impression that not a single judge who heard the case in Texas really thought that Texas' sodomy law made any sense, but most of them were to scared of the voters to do anything about it.If nothing else, I came away from this book convinced that Texas has GOT to reform it's constitution to do away with the election of judges.

  • Eric Chappell
    2019-03-01 23:41

    If legal histories were always this interesting, I would read many more of them. Carpenter does a masterful job of describing the context, circumstances, and court proceedings of one of the 21st century's landmark Supreme Court decisions. The book is divided into three sections which first describe the situation of the gay movement in Houston prior to the arrests of Lawrence, Garner, and Eubanks; second, portray what happened on the night of the arrests and attempt to answer the question why it happened; third, recount the development of the case from a "No contest" plea in front of a Justice of the Peace to an argument on substantive due process protected by the 14th amendment and whether the Court had erred in Bowers v. Hardwick before the highest court in the nation. Overall, a fascinating read. The author is overwhelmingly biased towards one perspective, as one might expect in a case of this magnitude. A little more objectivity would have improved it. Nonetheless, a page turner.

  • Brandon Fox
    2019-02-26 17:27

    This is a fascinating account of one of the most important cases in the history of the gay civil rights movement. It contains a mix of factual information and legal analysis, which made the book gripping as well as enlightening. One thing that struck me was how much luck, as well as effort, was involved in bringing the case to a successful conclusion at the Supreme Court. If anyone doubts the importance of voting, and thereby influencing who makes appointments to the Supreme Court, they should read this book.Another powerful element of the narrative was its illumination of anti-gay animus and how it plays into legal events. It points out that several states, even after the Supreme Court's decision, have insisted on leaving anti-gay statutes in place so they can continue expressing disapproval of gay people. This isn't a big surprise, given the anti-gay rants one often hears from the religious right, but it shows the depth of animus that still motivates a significant number of politicians.

  • Gary Ray
    2019-03-07 21:48

    As someone with an avowed fascination with the US Supreme Court, I found Flagrant Conduct: The Story of Lawrence v. Texas to be a thoroughly engrossing tale of this landmark case.While repetitive at times, this book demonstrated how easy it has been through history for the majority to marginalized those who are different simply because of the perceived differences. Justice Kennedy's opinion for the majority in this case is a truly moving statement affirming the general privacy rights of all US citizens. On the other hand, the dissent by Justice Scalia shows that even in our enlightened times, bigotry, bias and hatred directed at the 'other' is still pervasive.I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in how cases make it to the Supreme Court, and especially to anyone who finds disturbing the intrusion of the state into the private lives of its citizens.

  • Woodstock Pickett
    2019-02-26 19:46

    WHile a detailed, almost week by week chronology of the Supreme Court case Lawrence v Texas, this book is highly readable and very educational. The chain of events began when two men were arrested by an overeager law enforcement officer, and charged with violating Texas' anti sodomy laws. From there, events gradually move the case through the local courts, then on to the state level, and eventually to the Supreme Court. That court's decision upholding the rights of the petitioners effectively decriminalized homosexual activity nationwide, when such activity was consensual and private.THe author was able to interview a wide variety of participants, on both sides of the issue, and even though the reader knows the outcome before he/she finishes the first page, the wait for the anticipated Supreme Court decision is wonderfully suspenseful.I recommend this book for readers who enjoy reasoned commentary on contemporary legal issues, and also those who enjoy true crime.

  • Blair
    2019-02-21 00:52

    I am not much on long book reviews but I am glad I had the opportunity to read this book. Just as in the New Jim Crow, this book opened my eyes to the blatant hypocrisy found in some of our laws. I again, feel bad for the discrimination faced by the LGBTQ community but mostly I feel bad for my lack of knowledge on the situation. I'm actively trying to educate myself to gain a better level of empathy and I apologize for not doing this sooner.I loved the chapters that detailed the Supreme Court and their line of questioning. I loved the legal reasoning. It saddens me that Lawrence and Garner had such horrible lives during and even after the ruling. You would hope for a more storybook ending, but it's sad that this is not the case.The writing was well crafted and I highly suggest this book to anyone who wants to expand their understanding of the world around them and the things that are affecting our fellow humans on this earth.

  • Claire
    2019-03-02 20:43

    An extremely relevant read given the Supreme Court's recent decision to hear two gay marriage cases and I enjoyed the light it shed on the Supreme Court process in general. But boy, this was disjointed. Every chapter seemed like it's own little essay and Carpenter ended up repeating a lot of information and contradicting himself (look, the homosexual conduct law was either horribly oppressing and cast a pall over all gay people or it was so obscure no one knew about it. It cannot be both). And that it started with such a blatant dismissal of the struggles of lesbians really bugged me (even more so given that one of Houston's gay activists says something along the lines of "What we went through was miniscule in comparison to what the lesbians went through." No explanation or examples follow, of course.)So basically, I recommend it as a good primer on the SC and laws relating to homosexuality, but be prepared to rage over it a bit.

  • Kelly
    2019-02-25 18:31

    I was kinda ready to geek out over Con law here. But this book was pretty dry and uninteresting for the first 90%.Things I liked: the backgrounds and opinions of most people involved, the dissection of the Supreme court arguments, and the semi-interesting play-by-play for SCOTUS. Things I didn't like: it. was. really. boring., the amount of time they spent saying things like, "and they had no idea how big it would be" and "it would change their lives/everything forever." I also understand that the Harris County DA wasn't prepared and even didn't want to defend this case, but I didn't appreciate how they made them seem like dim-witted country bumpkins with no education and lame values and the lawyers on the Lawrence side as basically heroes with the best experience and education ever in the history of the world, even if they were. So, it was interesting historically but also, pretty boring for a lot of the time.

  • Nick Duretta
    2019-03-21 21:44

    An excellent account of a case that should never have come to court in the first place, but fortunately did, as it enabled the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn Texas' prohibition against "sodomy" (a very loosely interpreted and defined collection of sexual acts) and make a huge advance in the equal and fair treatment of LGBT citizens. Reading about the legal negotiations that moved this case forward could have been drier than it was. In particular, the presentation of the case to the Supreme Court, whose members had strikingly different views on the case, was riveting. It is still astonishing to me that what two consenting adults choose to do in their bedroom should be of any interest to the state, but fortunately that changed, and set the stage for the decision for full marriage equality, coming soon!

  • Chris
    2019-03-03 21:46

    It is no exaggeration that this Supreme Court decision from only nine years ago decriminalized gay Americans. Prior to that, it was illegal to be gay in many states insomuch as it involved actual sexual activity. The Lawrence decision, made during the conservative Bush era, overturned all existing sodomy laws and recognized the right for all Americans to enjoy sexual activity in the privacy of their own homes. This book is a comprehensive tour of the case as it moved to the Supreme Court and presents all the legal arguments and strategy in some detail. But its true value, to anyone who cares to listen, is to demonstrate how fragile the rights of gay Americans are and how they could be taken away again if political and religious conservatives change the composition of the Court in the future.

  • Ralphy Deluca iv
    2019-02-23 21:34

    Very insightful historical account into of one of the gay rights movement's most important moment: "Larence v. Texas," the Supreme Court case which found that laws criminalizing homosexual sex were unconstitutional. Especially as this is pride month (June), which has its name because in this month last year the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that laws barring same-sex marriages were unconstitutional, it was paramount to read. This book was about one of the cases that spearheaded the gay equality movement, and it was a very interesting read to boot. I'd recommend this book to anyone who wants to study gay rights history, study Supreme Court history, or study what hatred and religious zeal can do to harm our society.

  • willowdog
    2019-03-06 22:53

    Let me preface this as my awareness of the legal system is mostly garnered from Law & Order, Special Victims Unit and The Wire. Flagrant Conduct is an engrossing read where the "perfect storm" of a rogue police officer, two of the least likely defendants, and a randon conversation in a gay bar lead to the marshalling of the Lambda Legal defense lawyers and the case ultimately going to the Supreme Court which struck down sodomy laws in the U.S. Carpenter gives documented and facinating background and biographical information regarding the case and the participants involved. If you have never given to Lambda Legal in the past, you may be inclined after reading this.

  • Susan
    2019-02-28 00:44

    The whole time I was reading this book, I kept thinking how much I wish I cold talk with my uncle about it (he was a law professor and gay rights activist in Houston). In the last chapter, Carpenter describes the quickly-organized rally held on the steps of the Houston city hall, the evening after the Lawrence decision came down: "[then City Council President Annise] Parker spoke, followed by Linda Morales. Both noted the absence of movement heroes like Gene Harrington, a gay law professor, and Patrick wiseman, a heterosexual ACLU lawyer, who had fought the state sodomy law for decades before their deaths" (275). I miss him.