A Louisiana sheriff’s department caught arresting gay men for “crimes against nature,” something made unconstitutional in 2003 by a Supreme Court decision, has been forced to backtrack following revelations of at least a dozen arrests of gay men since 2011.
The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office was revealed to be using undercover officers to solicit gay men in parks for sex and then arresting them, according to a story published in the Baton Rouge, La., newspaper The Advocate Sunday. None of the arrests were ever prosecuted, however, the district attorney said, because none of the men had actually committed a crime.
The sheriff’s office responded Sunday night, defending the intent of their actions as “honorable,” but admitting their practices must be evaluated and changed. Local sources confirmed the office would release a statement Monday stating they would no longer enforce the policy and they would work with the Louisiana legislature to have the law removed from the books.
“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,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement. “When we receive calls from the public about lewd activity near our children, we have to respond … 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.”
Metro Councilman John Delgado wrote to the sheriff’s office, criticizing them for hiding behind ignorance that Louisiana’s sodomy laws, which although never repealed by the state, were made unconstitutional with the Supreme Court’s ruling on sodomy laws a decade ago.
“You cannot simply hide behind not knowing that the law had been changed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003,” Delgado wrote.
Capital City Alliance, a Baton Rouge LGBT organization, pointed to the city’s murder rate and questioned why the city’s law enforcement would instead use its manpower and resources to pursue unconstitutional arrests.
“While Baton Rouge has among the top ten highest murder rates of any city in the United States, and one of the highest overall violent crime rates, the EBR Sheriff’s Special Community AntiCrime Team has posted teams of deputies in public parks to arrest men under this unconstitutional law for merely discussing or agreeing to have consensual sex in private with an undercover deputy,” the group said in a statement.
3. Update: The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Office released the following statement:
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.