ACLU Backs Sen. Larry Craig

Senator accused of soliciting sex in public restroom has unlikely ally in ACLU.

ByABC News via logo
February 12, 2009, 9:29 AM

Sept. 17, 2007 — -- The strange case of Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig is about to take another interesting turn. Craig is getting support today from what many might consider to be an unlikely ally the American Civil Liberties Union.

Craig was arrested in a men's restroom at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport in June and pleaded guilty to disorderly conduct last month.

"We believe the sting operation used to apprehend Mr. Craig was unconstitutional. The statute the government is relying upon makes it a crime to use certain offensive words," said Anthony Romero, the executive director of the ACLU.

Police say Craig solicited sex from a police officer by tapping his foot and waving his hand under the stall divider. The arresting officer also says Craig peeked into his stall.

Craig denied at the time and continues to deny that he solicited sex from the officer through his gestures. He contends his actions were misinterpreted and he has adamantly denied that he is gay.

But the ACLU says it doesn't matter whether he solicited sex because that's not a crime.

"It is a crime to have sex in public. It is not a crime to propose or solicit sex in public, whether it's in a bar or in a bathroom," Romero said.

Craig said previously that he planned to quit on Sept. 30, but then indicated there was a chance he would try to stay in the Senate if he's able to withdraw his guilty plea

In a new court filing, Craig claims the foot tapping was innocent and he looked into the stall to make sure it was empty.

Prosecutors are expected to oppose Craig's attempt to withdraw his guilty plea.

"We clearly lay out what is the doctrine in terms of what speech is and is not protected," Romero said. "To be able to solicit sex in private, in public spaces, for instance, is constitutionally protected speech."