Last edited: October 31, 2004

A Capitol Kiss Controversy

The Daily Texan, October 19, 2004
The University of Texas at Austin

By Victoria Rossi

UT alumnus John Corvino thought it was “just some innocent kissing.” He and a male friend sat talking and kissing on a park bench near the Capitol on Sept. 16, when he said a state trooper strolled by.

“It wasn’t heavy kissing,” said Corvino in a statement. “Just an occasional kiss mixed with lots of conversation.”

According to the complaint Corvino filed against the Texas Department of Public Safety a week later, the trooper returned 20 minutes later with two others and told the pair that homosexual conduct was against Texas law.

Though the trooper allegedly identified himself to Corvino as “Trooper Carlson,” the DPS would not comment on investigative proceedings, the trooper’s identity or the potential ramifications of official misconduct.

“We’re conducting an investigation, and at its conclusion the investigators will write a report and send it up the chain of command to see what can be done,” said DPS spokeswoman Tela Mange.

According to his statement, Corvino questioned the officer about the legitimacy of the confrontation.

“In Lawrence v. Texas, the Supreme Court struck down antisodomy laws, and besides, we were just kissing,” Corvino said he told the trooper.

He said the trooper repeated that he would not allow such conduct on Capitol grounds, so Corvino and his friend left the area.

Corvino said the officers “clearly needed some education on the issue” and worried the troopers might detain him or call some “nonuniformed buddies” to harm him. He also recalled recent “gay bashings” in the Austin area and said he had once been attacked himself.

“That he hoped to intimidate seems evident by his remaining silent the first time he observed us, only to return with two other troopers [all armed],” Corvino said in his statement.

Corvino received his Ph.D at the University and is currently an assistant philosophy professor at Wayne State University in Detroit. He lectures around the country about morality and homosexuality. Alexis Puchek, co-director of the UT’s Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender and Ally Affairs Agency, attended one of Corvino’s lectures at the University last year.

“[The trooper] may have picked on the wrong person because John Corvino knows the law and knows his rights,” she said.

Puchek said many members of the UT gay community would be upset to hear about the situation.

“I understand that some people still have issues with homosexuality and homosexual conduct,” said Puchek. “But for a state trooper on duty to exercise discrimination is unacceptable.”

UT criminal law professor Robert Dawson said although antisodomy laws once existed in Texas, these never included kissing. He added that the troopers needed to “learn the law,” a sentiment echoed by Corvino.

“I hope this is an occasion for education for all the state troopers,” Corvino said.

Corvino will return to Austin soon and still looks forward to the trip despite this event. He has also considered adding what he described as a “bizarre and unsettling” experience to some of his lectures, particularly if he speaks again at the University.

 “Austin, while a progressive place, is also a diverse place,” said Corvino. “You can go to the most progressive place in the country and still meet homophobic people.”

[Home] [News] [Texas]