Tuesday, May 17, 2011
University of Minnesota law professor writes perspective on the "How the law accepted gays"
Dale Carpenter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota in my favorite city Minneapolis (yes, a big state school right in a major city), has an important piece in the New YorkTimes April 29 (paywall subscription required), “How the Law Accepted Gays”, link (website url) here. Lambda Legal (url) links to the article now.
He goes back to the days of Frank Kameny, who was fired from a civilian government job in 1957 when he was “outed” and then suddenly confronted by a visit from investigators. He traces the changes in Civil Service rules in 1973, the APA ruling, and the gradual challenge to sodomy laws, with the loss in “Bowers v. Hardwick” in 1986 (which might not have happened if one justice’s assistant had been out), to “Lawrence v. Texas” in 2003, to the fights over fay marriage and gay parenting today. And the debate over gays in the military has moved from one about privacy (ironic in both directions) to honesty and openness, and even shared sacrifice in a post 9/11 world.
It’s interesting and disturbing that Justice Scalia tried (in his 2003 dissent) to rewrite the debate as “from one of a small and despised minority to one of an elitist legal corps disparaging ordinary Americans.”
It seems as though the cultural battle is shifting to looking at how “common responsibilities” will be shared. As Jonathan Rauch once wrote (in the 1990s), if gays win marriage, will they (we) really use it? Same for parentage. The symbols for equal rights meet the practical need to take up responsibility.