The sherrif’s office of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, has arrested 12 men for agreeing to have consensual, private gay sex, according to an investigation by the Baton Rouge Advocate. The men were arrested under a Louisiana statute that was rendered unenforceable a decade ago when the US Supreme Court legalized gay sex in Lawrence v Texas.
In the latest arrest, on July 18, a sheriff's deputy approached a 65-year-old man in Manchac Park, Baton Rouge, a common cruising spot. The deputy denied he was a police officer, offered to take the man back to his house for “drinks and fun,” and asked if the man had condoms. When the man followed the deputy, he was arrested.
None of the 12 has been charged with a crime by the local district attorney, since agreeing to consensual sex is perfectly legal in Louisiana.
“The fact that this has been going on for a two-year period is unbelievable,” says gay-rights attorney Peter Renn. “This is basically like the police putting up a sign that says, ‘Please sue me.'”
Casey Hicks, spokeswoman for the sheriff's office, argued that the men were arrested because of the location — even though they had agreed to go back to a private residence to have sex. “The issue here is not the nature of the relationship but the location,” she said. “These are not bars. These are parks. These are family environments.”
“It is frustrating that the police are using their resources to pursue issues like this and arrest people for attempting to pick someone up and go home with them,” Bruce Parker, of Equality Louisiana, told the Advocate. “It’s perfectly legal, and we would have to close down every bar in Baton Rouge if that weren’t the case.”
After a major public outcry from local residents, politicians and gay activists about the police behaviour, the sheriff's office issued an apology for "offending people" in Baton Rouge, according to this video report by local TV station WBRZ.
Sheriff's office spokesperson Casey Rayborn Hicks told WBRZ that "we admit, however, the approach needs to change. We are not making excuses, simply stating we will learn from this, make changes and move forward."