As of 2011, 12 gay men were arrested in the parish of East Baton Rouge under a sodomy law that was invalidated by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2003. The most recent arrest occurred on July 18, but the East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office claims they were trying to deter public sex within parks in the community.
The Advocate reported on the arrests on Sunday. According to the newspaper, the sheriff’s office claimed the arrests were meant to make the parks safe, but the arrests of the 12 gay men were not related to public sex or indecency. On July 18 an undercover officer, who denied being law enforcement, discussed having a consensual sexual encounter later at his home with an unidentified 65-year-old male. The two were talking at a table at the park and when the man agreed, the undercover officer arrested the individual, charging him with an attempted crime against nature.
The basis for this arrest was a Louisiana law that was invalidated in 2003 by the U.S. Supreme Court. The case of Lawrence v. Texas invalidated a state sodomy that stated consensual homosexual sex between adults was a crime against nature. With the U.S. Supreme Court invalidating Texas’ sodomy law, any sodomy law in other states was also invalidated with the ruling.
In response to the Advocate, the sheriff’s office issued a statement on Facebook. According to the statement, “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.” According to the sheriff’s office, the park in question, Manchac Park, has been a place for gay men to solicit sex, notes the Advocate, while other lewd public acts have been reported at the location.
A later clarification of the statement did not acknowledge that the statute that was being used by the officers was invalidated but stated: “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.”
The Advocate’s investigation discovered 11 other arrests of a similar fashion. The other arrests involved men consenting to have sex with an undercover officer at a home at a later time. There were no discussions about exchanging money for sex or performing any acts in a public place. While the sheriff’s office arrested the individuals, District Attorney Hillar Moore III stated none of the men were charged with a crime because no crimes were convicted, reports the newspaper.
Metro Councilman John Delgado responded to the sheriff’s office statement with an email stating, “The sheriff's actions are a violation of the civil rights of these men under the 5th and 14th Amendments.” Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Rayborn Hicks said the office apologizes for the arrests but it is unclear if there will be a formal apology, reports the Advocate.