3 min

An unfair choice

Scott Beatty was asked to choose between career and friends

'IT'S THE PRINCIPLE': Scott Beatty chose alternative measures after being charged with keeping a common bawdyhouse after Calgary police raided Goliath's Sauna last December. He's still agonizing over whether he did enough to serve his community. Credit: Robin Perelle

CALGARY-Scott Beatty is still struggling with his decision to take the alternative-measures route and avoid going to trial in the Calgary bathhouse case.

Beatty has been working part-time at Goliath’s Sauna ever since he moved to Calgary from Saskatchewan two and a half years ago. He wasn’t on duty the night of the raid but police still charged him with keeping a common bawdyhouse, anyway. (Police also charged five other men as keepers in connection with the case.)

Beatty has been agonizing over his options ever since.

To be honest, he says, part of him really wants to go to trial to fight the charge. “It’s the principle of the thing,” he explains. “I did nothing wrong. I just work at a gay establishment.”

The bawdyhouse law is archaic, he continues. It might have been appropriate at the turn of the last century but it shouldn’t apply now.

There’s nothing indecent about gay men having sex in a bathhouse, he says. If anything, it’s a safe environment where people know what to expect when they walk in. “That’s what this place is all about. It’s just a part of gay culture.”

Still, Beatty feels torn. Fighting the charge could mean risking the career of his dreams, and he just can’t bear to do that.

Beatty has been studying to be a youth counsellor for the last two years. In fact, he moved to Calgary specifically to go back to school.

“I went through hell to get [my career] back on track,” the 43-year-old recalls. “I lived in a homeless shelter for two months to get my shit together.” He also completed an addiction treatment program.

One day, Beatty says with a determined look in his eye, he’ll open his own group home for gay youth who have no place else to go. The regular homes don’t have enough resources for gay youth, he explains.

But before he can do that, he’ll have to complete his studies. And in order to do that, he has to pass a criminal record check every three months. If he goes to trial and gets convicted, he’ll fail the check and seriously jeopardize his career.

“If I get so much as a fine, it’ll ruin my career,” Beatty notes.

That’s why, after some hesitation, he finally accepted his lawyer’s suggestion to take the alternative-measures route after police charged him. In exchange for “accepting responsibility” for his alleged crime and completing whatever requirements his probation officer assigns, Beatty won’t have to worry about the charge ever showing up on his record.

“My friends understand,” he says. “It’s not like I’m turning my back on my community.”

Still, he sighs, he can’t shake the feeling that he is doing just that.

“I feel guilty,” he says. On the one hand, he really wants to support the community that he loves, the community that adopted him when he moved to Calgary, that helped him feel so much more comfortable with being out and proud.

He wants to support Goliath’s. He wants to fight back against those who are attacking gay bathhouses. He wants to support his best friends.

It’s not fair, he says. He shouldn’t have to choose between his community and his career.

“I don’t want to sacrifice either,” Beatty says. “It’s just not right.”

But that’s exactly what police pressured him to do, he maintains.

The cops phoned him up a few weeks after the raid, Beatty recalls. They threatened to charge him if he didn’t cooperate.

“They said, ‘We know you’re in school. Either give us what we want or we’ll charge you,'” Beatty says.

“I think that’s coercion with a capital C.”

The head of Calgary’s vice squad says he doubts his investigators threatened Beatty, though he wasn’t there when they spoke to him. “That’s bullshit,” Staff Sergeant Joe Houben says.

If Beatty felt threatened it’s because the officers laid out the possible consequences of his actions-not because they threatened him, Houben says.

Beatty’s not convinced. “They tried to make me choose between my career, which I went through hell to get back on track, and my friends. I didn’t think that was fair at all.”

In the end, Beatty refused to tell the cops about Goliath’s; they charged him with keeping a common bawdyhouse a month after the raid.

Then, two weeks before the accused keepers’ trial was about to begin, the Crown offered Beatty alternative measures. Reluctantly, he accepted.

“I’m not ashamed of being gay,” Beatty says. “I’m not ashamed to work with youth. I’m ashamed that society isn’t accepting us [gays] for who we are.”