I had the privilege of being a participant in a panel on race and same-sex marriage at the Thurgood Marshall School of Law at Texas State University in Houston. I don’t know why, but I’ve always loved doing stuff at historically black colleges and universities. Philosophically, I’m often ambivalent about the mission of such programs, yet I’ve done things at HBCUs, and it is always thrilling and inspiring. I worked with Tennessee State and Meharry Medical College for several years on projects about racial disparities in health outcomes, and we did many outreach programs to try to stimulate research at HBCUs. I was always humbled by the resilience and commitment of faculty members at HBCUs, and of the seriousness of their students. Sarah Guidry, Executive Director of the Earl Carl Institute for Legal and Social Policy, did a magnificent job of assembling a diverse panel on issues related to legal, racial, and religious perspectives on same sex marriage. Her own stoic presence sometimes was punctuated by her unique story, which she only interjected briefly, yet to great effect.
I got to meet the guy who gave us legal blow jobs and cunnilingus and buttsex! Among the distinguished panel was Mitchell Katine, who argued Lawrence v Texas to the Supreme Court. His presentation noted how race played such a significant role in the persecution of John Lawrence and Tyron Garner, when they were arrested for having consensual sex in 1998. If Garner would have been white, it is unlikely that the cops would have arrested them on sodomy charges. Katine was just a young pup lawyer when he first took the case, and yet there it stands. Lawrence v Texas overturned the noxious Bowers v Hardwick, and it did so quite strongly. Next up, Colin Starger presented why I could never be a lawyer, outlining how Supreme Court cases are won and the flow of judicial decisionmaking across the last century. I asked something like “why don’t people argue X” and he said, “that’s not exactly stupid (which means it was stupid), but it seems to go against a century or so of precedent.” The keynote was a young guy who was part of the team arguing De Leon v Perry, the Texas marriage case bubbling up through the courts. Other speakers honed in on other various issues, and many quite engaged and enthusiastic law school students, faculty, and community members prodded everyone about their perspectives, opinions, findings and expectations.
What really struck me was that some people are willing to engage in intellectual discourse for its own sake. None of us were paid. We were all just happy to be there, supporting an important law school with strong ties to the civil rights community.
In the meantime, conservative Christianists at Rice and Baylor were hosting expensive high profile conferences featuring people like Ernest Istook…..