Lawrence v Texas at fifteen

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I happened to notice that it has been fifteen years since the Supreme Court ruled in Lawrence v. Texas that The Texas statute [criminalizing consensual, adult homosexual intercourse] furthers no legitimate state interest which can justify its intrusion into the personal and private life of the individual. Fifteen years!

Fifteen years.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with, as I get older (or, by you leave, as I get more perspective) is the sense that Young People Today don’t appreciate the successes that happened just during my lifetime. I really, truly marvel at how far our society has come in diversity, inclusion and love, and I want to share that joy with my children, who are understandably and indeed correctly outraged at the shortcomings of that inclusion. This is true on many topics, where I am often tempted to compare the terrible situations of today to the far worse situations of the past—You are outraged that states are demanding voters provide IDs in an attempt to discourage participation? The Chief Justice in Lawrence helped run Operation Eagle Eye, sending people to harass Latinos at polling places. You’re outraged about black lives not mattering to the police? We used to hang African-Americans from trees and picnic under the bodies. You’re outraged about out treatment of immigrant families at the border? Go visit Angel Island detention center. Hell, go everywhere—there is not a group of nonwhite immigrants who weren’t kept in cages and separated from their families by the US government at some time or other. And by immigrants I mean everyone, whether their grandparents were dragged here in chains or whether seven generations of their families lived on this soil before it became part of the US.

Every outrage can be made to look inconsequential by comparing it to some worse outrage in history. History’s big like that. It’s a tactic that is most often used to dismiss real and valid concerns, and as an excuse for not working to improve a situation that’s actually, if not comparatively, lousy. I don’t mean to do that, at all.

I’m not claiming that there’s an arc of progress, for crying out loud, or that we should be celebrating our successes instead of fighting new struggles. I’m not even saying we need a sense of perspective—a sense of perspective on LGBT+ rights might as properly make us terrified that we are in yet another brief period of liberation before yet another period of brutal suppression. And yet, we are in a period of liberation, and we don’t know for sure that it’s brief. And isn’t it nice when, even in some limited areas and for a few decades, America is America?

Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,

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