Sunday, September 9, 2007

Maybe He is Newsworthy After All

What does one have to do to get arrested for disorderly conduct? In the case of Larry Craig, tapping his foot in the wrong restroom stall sufficed. Basically the guy was arrested for flirting, albeit in a bizarre way, and with a police officer. Hard as it is to side with a man of Craig’s voting record, it irks me that what he did is criminal. Ellen Goodman wrote a great column on this.

At times like these, being a lawyer sure would come in handy. For starters, how does the law define disorderly conduct. Next, why is flirting, or foot tapping disorderly? states disorderly conduct is a “catch-all crime” used “to keep the peace when a person is behaving in a disruptive manner, but presents no serious public danger.”A peek at Minnesota’s statute is helpful. In MN being “disorderly” can get you arrested if you are “brawling,” disrupting “lawful assembly” or if you are “offensive, obscene, abusive or boisterous.” Craig wasn’t fighting, or interfering with lawful assembly, so his arrest must have been based on the last category, which is pretty subjective. I am not reassured that offending a policeman is arrest worthy, and would like to understand why this does not conflict with the First Amendment. Any scholars out there want to weigh in?

Some odd-balls of the right wing variety think Craig was charged because he’s conservative. You know, its part of the liberal media/ liberal courts conspiracy to pervert America’s soul, or some such drivel. That analysis ignores the fact that anti-gay conservatives benefit from this debacle. Craig’s arrest enforces the notion that acting gay is perverse and, quite literally, criminal. Also, the GOP gets to appeal to their conservative base, the Christian right especially, by publicly purging Craig for actions the base finds morally repugnant. In this way, the situation benefits the Cheney types more than the Clinton types, and all at the expense of Joe Gay.

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