La. Sheriff Accused of Targeting LGBT Community in Sting

By Chris Hoenig

A Baton Rouge, La., sheriff has apologized after 12 men were arrested in a sting operation that appeared to target the LGBT community using a law already declared unconstitutional.

The men were arrested at a local park after discussing or agreeing to have sex with undercover investigators, usually at a private residence nearby. Even though none of the agreements involved paying for sex, the deputies arrested the men, citing a two-centuries-old anti-sodomy law targeting same-gender couples—the type of ban the Supreme Court ruled illegal in 2003, exactly 10 years to the day before its rulings on DOMA and Prop 8.

The arrests came over a two-year period, with the most recent one on July 18. The men were quickly released on bond and the district attorney declined to bring charges or further prosecute any of the cases.

East Baton Rouge Sheriff Sid Gautreaux posted the apology to the department’s Facebook page, though the page was deactivated soon after. It read: “The Sheriff’s Office apologizes that the way these investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community. That was not our intent. The Sheriff’s Office also apologizes to anyone that was unintentionally harmed or offended by the actions of our investigations. While sections of La. R.S. 14:89, Crimes Against Nature, have not been removed from the Louisiana law code, they have been deemed unenforceable and unconstitutional. The Sheriff’s Office will not use these unconstitutional sections of the law in future cases. We are committed to working with all branches of our government, as well as the LGBT community, to find acceptable ways to keep our community safe.”

In a statement to the local newspaper that broke the story, Gautreaux said he would push to have the unconstitutional law removed from the books, adding: “Our agency made mistakes. We will learn from them and we will take measures to ensure it does not happen again.”

Response to Gautreaux’s apology has been fast and sharp. The Facebook post reportedly drew dozens of comments before the page was taken down, many saying that the statement was nothing more than damage control. Baton Rouge City Councilman John Delgado is pushing for an ordinance to protect the LGBT community.

“The time for platitudes has passed,” Delgado said. “What we need to do is offer legal protection to not only people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, but for race, religion and creed.” A nonbinding resolution “expressing tolerance” of everyone regardless of race, religion, orientation and nationality failed to pass the council in 2007.

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