US: Police use invalid anti-sodomy law to arrest gay men for ‘crimes against nature’

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Police officers from the Sheriff’s office in Baton Rouge, Louisiana have made at least a dozen arrests of gay men since 2011 using an anti-sodomy law despite it being struck down ten years ago.

Arrests have been made as recently as July, with gay men being charged with “attempted crimes against nature” for discussing having consensual sex in a private place with an undercover police officer.

The most recent was made on 18 July when a deputy sheriff approached a 65-year-old man in a car, denied being a police officer, and after moving to a park bench, discussed having “some drinks and some fun”, at his apartment.

The man was arrested and charged with attempted crime against nature, despite no sex-for-money exchange being discussed, and despite not having intended to have sex in a public place, reports the Advocate.

According to the report, District Attorney Hillar Moore III, said his office had not prosecuted in any of the cases, because it had found that no crime had been committed.

The Sheriff’s Office’s intentions are all good,” said Moore. “But from what I’ve seen of these cases, legally, we found no criminal violation.”

He also agreed to meet with the Sheriff’s office to discuss the Supreme Court ruling on the issue.

A Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman, Casey Rayborn, denied that the law had been misapplied by officers, as it remains among the state’s criminal statutes.

“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.”

Advocates of LGBT rights expressed shock at the application of the law in these cases,

“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.”

Andrea J Ritchie, a civil rights attorney said: “It’s really unfortunate that police are continuing to single out, target, falsely arrest and essentially ruin the lives of gay men in Baton Rouge who are engaged in no illegal conduct.”

Other legal officials, and LGBT rights activists spoke out against the arrests, some even going as far as saying that the actions of the police constituted entrapment. Some noted that many of the arrested men were aged 40+, and had not come out as gay to their families yet.