Perry and Lawrence v. Texas: Oops!

By Leslie Robinson

General Gayety

Rick Perry jumped into the Republican presidential race in August, and a spate of verbal blunders followed. The Texas governor is on gaffe-ing gas.

He flubbed the voting age, the date of the 2012 election, the number of justices on the Supreme Court and the name of Justice Sotomayor. Perry infamously blustered during a Republican debate that he would do away with three cabinet agencies, then couldn't remember the third. On that occasion, Gov. Goodhair, as the late columnist Molly Ivins called the impeccably coiffed Perry, went flat and lifeless.

Recently Perry explained to Iowans the need for the Keystone XI pipeline, saying, "Every barrel of oil that comes out of those sands in Canada is a barrel of oil we don't have to buy from a foreign source."

I hear a line of beavers has taken up a defensive position on the Canadian side of the border.

Now we can add to Perry's record another sinkhole where knowledge should be, this time concerning a matter of major importance to the LGBT community. In Cedar Rapids, an audience member at a campaign event asked Perry about Lawrence v. Texas, the 2003 landmark Supreme Court case that struck down the sodomy law in Texas and nullified such laws across the U.S.

As far as Perry was concerned, he might as well have been asked about Ali v. Frazier.

"I wish I could tell you I knew every Supreme Court case. I don't. I'm not a lawyer," Perry responded, according to National Journal. After the event, Perry told a reporter he didn't know what the case was.

That's incredible. Lawrence v. Texas began shortly before Perry became Texas's lieutenant governor, and the Supreme Court heard and decided the case while he was governor.

This case began in Texas, affected Texas law and concerned his cherished conservative social values. It gave us gays the right to diddle each other with impunity, for heaven's sake. Yet Perry couldn't remember it.

What will he forget next? The Alamo?

ABC News blogged that in Perry's 2010 book, "Fed Up! Our Fight to Save America from Washington," he referred to Lawrence v. Texas as one of the cases in which "Texans have a different view of the world than do the nine oligarchs in robes."

Apparently at one time Perry did remember the court case. And the number of justices on the Supreme Court. Or at least his ghostwriter did.

Maybe he has to learn so much these days - like the name of North Korea's late dictator is Kim Jong-il, not "Kim Jong the Second" as Perry dubbed him - that facts he previously knew are falling out of his head to make room. Anybody standing near him should look out for falling objects.

Back at the Blue Strawberry coffee shop, after being asked about the Lawrence case, Perry changed the subject: "We can sit here and, you know, play 'I gotcha' questions on what about this Supreme Court case or whatever, but let me tell you, you know and I know the problem in this country is spending in Washington, D.C. - it's not some court case."

Actually we have a number of problems in this country. One of them is a Texan who believes he should be president even though his brain shoots blanks.

As it happens, John G. Lawrence, one of the two plaintiffs in Lawrence v. Texas, passed away in November. I have every confidence that when someone mentioned to Perry that John Lawrence died, the governor responded, "Poor Eydie. Now who will she sing with?"

Leslie Robinson is grateful to John Lawrence for seeing the fight through. Email Leslie at, and visit her blog at for daily LGBT humor.

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