For two years the Baton Rouge Sheriff has been in a time-warp that would qualify for inclusion in the Twilight Zone. The Sheriff has been sending his men out as undercover agents to solicit gay men for ‘some drinks and some fun’ at a public park, and then arresting them for sex crimes if they agree. The office acted under a Louisiana anti-sodomy law that it apparently didn’t know was judicially determined to be unconstitutional and unenforceable over a decade ago.
The office remained in that time-freeze up until the most recent arrest on July 18. However, the office did receive wake-up notices over the past two years. It was notified by virtue of the district attorney’s refusal to prosecute the 12 cases due to the illegality of the arrests. Indeed, that illegality was widely announced in 2003 by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling declaring anti-sodomy laws unconstitutional.
The Sheriff’s Office at first answered critics by incorrectly concluding that a sex crimes law that remains technically on the books must be enforced. However, the state attorney general had said as early as 2003 that these provisions could no longer be used. After additional media and governmental attention, the office finally began to awake from its time-warp slumber, with a statement that it’s the activities in the park that are the problem and not the ‘nature of the relationship’.
With Baton Rouge rated as America’s eighth most deadly city, however, the office’s priorities continued under fire. The office finally awoke to knowing that its sex crime charges were wrongful by July 28 with a confession that it now sees it should have acted differently. It stated that it would try to get the law removed from the books, and will find new ways to deter sexual activity in the parks.
The final cleansing came a day later. It was an acknowledgment that despite these sex crimes provisions still appearing in the Louisiana code they have been declared unconstitutional, are unenforceable and will not be used. Finally, the Sheriff had a full conversion and entered the world of real time: the office said it will work with all branches of government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.
Source: msnbc.com, “Sodomy laws may be illegal, but that’s not stopping Baton Rouge,” Al Vitali, July 28, 2013