I’ve listened to the police interview conducted with (now ex-) Senator Larry Craig shortly after he was arrested in an airport bathroom in Minneapolis some months ago, and I don’t think he did anything illegal. And even if he did, he sure didn’t do anything that should be illegal.

Here’s how it went down.

The Airport Police, not content with the task of the threat posed by international terrorism, decided to concentrate their efforts on the threat posed by men finding sexual partners in the bathroom. It’s not like they had anything better to do, right? After all, 9/11 was six years ago; it’s not like anything like it could happen again. So a police officer hides in a bathroom stall, just waiting to catch someone trying to indicate they’d like to hook up, and thinks he’s found it in Larry Craig.

Larry sits on the pot, the the cop in the stall next door. At some point, their feet bump together (Larry says he has a “wide stance”). At another point, Larry’s hand is seen under the divider (Larry says he was picking up a piece of toilet paper). The cop sees this, throws a card underneath, and Larry is busted.

Or is he? It’s possible, I guess. But it also seems very possible that an overzealous cop simply misconstrued the facts, and that Larry Craig was innocent of the charge. He later pleaded guilty, which would appear at first glance to be a clear-cut confession, case closed. But I heard the police interview. It was much easier for Craig to plead guilt quietly than to contest the charge publicly. It was presented this way from the start: Craig would catch his flight, the media would not be informed, he would mail $500 to the court within 60 days, check the box which says “Guilty” and go about his business as usual. Or, he could contest the charge: the officer would testify against him on the stand, lawyers would be involved, the media would cover it mercilessly, his family life would become strained and his career as a U.S. Senator would effectively be over.

Which option would you choose? It’s easy to say you’d never plead guilty to anything you were innocent of. Only last month I accepted civil responsibility for the traffic violation of ‘No seat belt’ even with the belief that I was wearing one and only unclicked it after I had been pulled over. Why did I accept the responsibility for something I didn’t do? Simply because, after weighing the options, it was the easier and ‘friendlier’ option. I would not be surprised – in the least – that an innocent person in Craig’s position would accept guilt for a misdemeanor he believes he was not guilty of, for the sake of expediency, his life, his reputation, his career.

So is he guilty, and does it matter? I have these thoughts:

1) The law should not be out to entrap people. This was entrapment.

2) If he’s not guilty, he should fight this now (as he says he will) with gusto.

3) It should not be a crime to make hand gestures underneath a bathroom stall. It’s certainly not the vaguely-defined “disorderly conduct” to which Craig pled guilty, nor the more serious “lewd conduct” for which men humping in bathroom stalls should rightly be prosecuted. This idea that the law can pre-empt crimes such as sexual conduct in public places (where minors are expected to be present at any time) by prosecuting the very intent in a gesture or anything else, is ridiculous and obscene. There is no justification for making hand gestures illegal in moral lawmaking, and it constitutes a violation of some basic rights, in my opinion.

4) The same people who want to defend prosecutions of this kind would actively oppose any drive to allow men to hook up for quickies in any other sense which would be more private (for example hotel rooms which can be rented by the minute) as an alternative. Their concern is not practical, but the force of moral judgmentalism which seeks to enforce a kind of universal morality upon everyone. They believe gay men soliciting sex from each other is immoral in any scenario, and frankly that’s none of their damned business.

5) If Senator Craig was in the bathroom soliciting gay sex, he’s a hypocrite. During the course of his career he has been vocal against homosexuality and has voted against gay rights on many occasions. The press is full of criticism in this vein, so I’ll leave the condemnation and analysis to others if this is the case.

6) I’ve never heard men having sex in a bathroom stall next to me. If I did, I’d probably find it more amusing than anything and completely ignore it. On the other hand, a police sting which pays officers to sit on the can and attempt to catch hand signals is, at best, an imprudent way to spend the money that citizens were taxed for their protection.

7) If hand signals are being used by gay men to find potential sexual partners in bathrooms, it seems to be an activity roughly equivalent to pick-up lines being used by straight men to find potential sexual partners in bars. If the issue is homosexuality, there are some people who need to consider carefully on what moral basis they wish to discriminate in law.

8) I hate public bathrooms.

John Wright