A sheriff's office task force in Baton Rouge, Louisiana has been conducting undercover investigations that target gay men under the state's defunct sodomy law.
The sting operations were uncovered by the Baton Rouge Advocate in an article published Saturday. At least a dozen gay men have been arrested for agreeing to have sex with undercover officers, according to the report.
Louisiana's crimes against nature law prohibits "unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same-sex or opposite-sex or with an animal" along with "solicitation by a human being of another with the intent to engage in any unnatural carnal copulation for compensation." The sodomy law has been invalid since the U.S. Supreme Court's 2003 Lawrence v. Texas ruling, which made same-sex sexual activity legal in every state.
Though residents of the state can still be prosecuted for prostitution and bestiality under the law, the gay men who were arrested reportedly agreed to private, unpaid sex with the undercover officers. The District Attorney Hillar Moore III told the Baton Rouge Advocate his office refused to prosecute the cases because they found no criminal violation had occurred.
The Baton Rouge sheriff's office, meanwhile, told the Baton Rouge Advocate that it would continue to prosecute all laws currently on the Louisiana books.
Some Louisiana lawmakers attempted to repeal the controversial law in 2003, but failed. Louisiana remains one of 17 states that still have anti-sodomy laws on the books, despite the Supreme Court's 2003 ruling.
LGBT advocates are -- not surprisingly -- outraged that the Baton Rouge sheriff's office targeted gay men for arrest.
“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,” Andrea J. Ritchie, a civil rights attorney, told the Baton Rouge Advocate.
Update (Monday, July 29): Late Sunday evening, the East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office released a statement on Facebook.
"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," the statement read.
"In hindsight, however, we feel we should have taken a different approach. 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," the statement continued.
You can read the entire statement here.
["Middle Aged Policeman Arresting A Man" on Shutterstock]