[Vision2020] ACLU to Craig's Rescue

Gray Tree Crab aka Big Bertha gray.treecrab.aka.big.bertha at gmail.com
Tue Sep 18 14:16:55 PDT 2007

 <http://www.spokesmanreview.com/>Tuesday, September 18, 2007
ACLU says Craig's rights violated Group says law breaks First Amendment

Betsy Z. Russell
Staff writer
September 18, 2007

BOISE – The American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota has filed legal
arguments backing Idaho Sen. Larry Craig in his Minnesota court case, in
which Craig is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea in an airport restroom
sex solicitation sting.

"The actions of police in this restroom, the sting operations, are things
that have been conducted against gay men forever," said Chuck Samuelson,
executive director of the Minnesota ACLU. "The object of the exercise,
fundamentally, was never really to stop solicitation of sex but rather to
'out' gay males."

 Craig has denied being gay and said a police officer misconstrued his
foot-tapping and hand gestures in the airport restroom. He pleaded guilty to
a misdemeanor disorderly conduct charge in the June incident, but after the
news came to light in late August, began working to withdraw his plea. Craig
faces a court hearing in Minnesota on Sept. 26.

Samuelson, whose group filed its "friend of the court" brief Monday morning
in 4th District Court in Minneapolis, said, "Frankly, I could care less what
the senator's sexual proclivities are. But from a First Amendment point of
view, the ACLU hates to see this stuff happen. … Our client is not Sen.
Craig, but rather freedom of speech."

District Judge Charles Porter could rule as soon as today on whether to
allow the ACLU's arguments to be considered in the case, said court
spokeswoman Jamie Smith.

Craig's lead attorney in the case, Billy Martin, said Monday, "We welcome
the ACLU's filing today and their involvement in this case."

He noted, "We have argued to the court that the facts which Sen. Craig
admits happened on that day do not constitute a crime. The ACLU's legal
position is that Sen. Craig's arrest may have violated his constitutional
rights. Furthermore, the ACLU's position is the sting conducted by the
airport police may also violate the protection the United States
Constitution provides all of us."

The legal brief argues that the law under which Craig pleaded guilty
unconstitutionally makes speech and private sexual solicitation into crimes.
"Sex is a constitutionally protected liberty interest," the brief states.

"An invitation to have private sex is constitutionally protected and may not
be made a crime. This is so even where the proposition occurs in a public
place, whether in a bar or in a restroom."

It notes that one 1970 Minnesota Supreme Court case held that two men
engaged in sexual activity in a department store restroom with the stall
door closed had a reasonable expectation of privacy. "They were, the court
held, therefore acting in a private, not a public place," the brief states.
It also says that posting a sign that the restroom was patrolled would have
been a better deterrent to public sex than a sting operation.

Said Samuelson, "The entire sting is constitutionally suspect."

He added, "The law in Minnesota is that solicitation for sex is not illegal.
Solicitation of sex in a public space is illegal and solicitation for the
sale of sex is illegal. But between consenting adults, it's legal. … He
didn't commit a crime in Minnesota. It hadn't gotten to that point. … And
furthermore, we're contending that he was charged improperly."

The ACLU filed a motion along with its brief, asking the court to consider
its arguments in the case. In the motion, the group said it has more than
10,000 members in Minnesota who "share a commitment to the defense of the
rights that are guaranteed by the United States Constitution.

Among the most fundamental of these rights are the right to due process and
the right to free expression."

The motion said, "The outcome of this case will have a broader impact on the
constitutional rights of other individuals facing prosecution" under
Minnesota laws.

Sumitted by:
Gray Tree Crab aka "Big Bertha"
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