Over the weekend, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s office has been accused of targeting gay men for harassment. Today, they appeared to back down from their position that what they were doing was legal.
Officers form the Sheriff’s office would cruise a particular park where gay men were known to hook up, chat the men up, and then retire to a private apartment in order to arrest the men. No enforceable crimes were committed as the men did not intend to exchange money and none of them were minors.
The arrested men were usually released and all charges dropped shortly after the arrests.
Today, the Sheriff’s office issued through Facebook a new statement regarding the incidents after deleting the old one, which can still be found on several websites. The Sheriff’s office apologized. They stated:
“The Sheriff’s office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent. The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law code, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We are committed to working with all branches of our government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.”
The Louisiana Crimes Against Nature law was rendered partially unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court in 2003′s landmark case Lawrence v. Texas. All sodomy laws across the country were rendered unconstitutional at the time and cannot be enforced even though they are on the books still in many states.
Originally, the Sheriff’s office tried to pass the arrests off as acts of lewd and lascivious behavior including public masturbation, public sex and other lewd activities. Originally, they wrote:
The Sheriff’s Office has not, nor will it ever, set out with the intent to target or embarrass any part of our law-abiding community. Our goal is to Protect and Serve the public. When we receive calls from the public about lewd activity near our children, we have to respond. Our park operations, conducted at the specific request of the BREC Park’s Ranger, were an attempt to deter or stop lewd activity occurring in the park near children. The deputies in the cases were acting in good faith using a statute that was still on the books of the Louisiana criminal code. [...]
We want to reiterate our intent in these cases. It was NEVER to target a certain segment of our population. It was only in response to parents, park officials and members of the public concerned that our parks were not safe. When we receive reports of public masturbation, sex and other lewd activity in a park where children are playing, me MUST take these concerns seriously. Our intent was honorable, our approach, however, is something we must evaluate and change. The Sheriff’s Office is not concerned with what consenting adults do in private residences. We are concerned with what is going on in public, especially a public place frequented by children.