Baton Rouge Police Arrested Men Under Overturned Law
An East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office task force has arrested at least 12 men since 2011 under a sodomy law invalidated in 2003 by the U.S. Supreme Court, a newspaper reported Sunday.
A July 18 arrest was the most recent for a man who merely discussed or agreed to have sex with a male undercover agent, The Advocate reported.
Although sex in public and solicitation of "unnatural carnal copulation" for money are illegal in Louisiana, neither element was part of these 12 cases, and most of the men were arrested after agreeing to have sex away from the park at a private residence, District Attorney Hillar Moore III told the newspaper.
"The Sheriff's Office's intentions are all good," Moore said. "But from what I've seen of these cases, legally, we found no criminal violation."
Metro Councilman John Delgado said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux owes an apology to the men arrested and the entire parish.
The Supreme Court ruled in 2003 that a Texas law against oral or anal sex was invalid. Louisiana was among nine states which had such laws. Richard Ieyoub, then attorney general, said the high court's ruling made Louisiana's law unenforceable.
However, "crime against nature" remains part of Louisiana law, punishable by up to five years at hard labor and a $2,000 fine. The criminal code accessible through the Legislature's website states, without defining what makes copulation unnatural, that "Crime against nature is the unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same sex or opposite sex or with an animal."
Gautreaux has told the Capital City Alliance, a city-wide nonprofit for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people, that deputies "will no longer be enforcing this law until the courts or the legislature removes it," the organization said in an emailed statement.
The sheriff's office sent a statement Sunday to the newspaper saying it "should have taken a different approach" to worries about park safety, the newspaper reported.
"We will consult with others in the legislative and judicial branches to see what can be done to remove this law from the criminal code that each deputy receives and to also find alternative ways to deter sexual and lewd activity from our parks," it said.
Metro Councilman John Delgado said Sheriff Sid Gautreaux owed an apology to the men arrested and the entire parish.
Delgado said he will file public records requests to determine when the district attorney's office told the sheriff's office that the men targeted had committed no crime.
"You cannot simply hide behind not knowing that the law had been changed by the U.S. Supreme Court decision in 2003," Delgado said in email to the sheriff's office. "The sheriff's actions are a violation of the civil rights of these men under the 5th and 14th Amendments. Ignorance of the law is no excuse ... Doesn't your office tell people that all the time?"