Oh dear, Louisiana.
According to The Advocate, in Baton Rouge, cops have been conducting sting operations to entice gay men into sex with undercover officers. Said men — at least a dozen of them since 2011 — were then arrested for sodomy.
Hang on, you say. Is sodomy even illegal? Erm, no. Anti-sodomy laws, under the "Crime Against Nature" statute — oh dear — were ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court back in 2003.
Allegedly, the undercover police deputies approached men in public places and agreed on no-fee consensual sex. When the men followed the deputies into a nearby apartment, they were promptly arrested by cops who'd been waiting for them to 'prove' they were interested in 'sodomizing.' The LGBT community is understandably furious about the claims. Equality Louisiana responded:
It’s perfectly legal, and we would have to close down every bar in Baton Rouge if that weren’t the case.
Touché. Though, there is some debate about the "perfectly legal" part. Technically, the law is still "on the books": in other words, even though the law has been struck down for being federally unconstitutional, the individual law hasn't been removed from the state's legislation. Because the legislation is still technically there, cops have been using the legal loophole to arrest men under the original anti-sodomy law.
A spokesman for the sheriff's office in Baton Rouge responded to the claims:
This is a law that is currently on the Louisiana books, and the sheriff is charged with enforcing the laws passed by our Louisiana Legislature. Whether the law is valid is something for the courts to determine, but the sheriff will enforce the laws that are enacted...The issue here is not the nature of the relationship but the location. These are not bars. These are parks. These are family environments.
Family environments where we as police must lure gay men into having sex.
True, public sex is illegal for both the gay and straight communities, but there's no indication that the law was about to be broken by the men who were arrested. "The fact that this has been going on for a two-year period is unbelievable. This is basically like the police putting up a sign that says ‘Please sue me,’" gay-rights lawyer Peter Renn said.
Louisiana isn't the only state in which anti-sodomy laws remain "on the books." Fourteen other states — including four that outlaw gay sex entirely — still keep these laws around. Virginia is actively trying to keep the law on the books, and a Michigan sheriff's office was revealed to be conducting "sting ops" identical to those alleged in Baton Rouge just two years ago.
Mother Jones maps it out:
After fierce criticism from all sides, the Baton Rouge sheriff's office has released the following statement:
The goal of our statement was to express our intent to the public, which was to keep the parks safe. 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. We will be working with all branches of government to find a better solution for keeping our parks safe. Thanks to all for their input.