Some applaud controversial arrests of gay men
BATON ROUGE- Negative attention is being cast on the city of Baton Rouge by national media sites following the arrests of gay men by the East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office.
The arrests happened during sting operations from 2011 until July of this year. Deputies arrested at least 12 men who agreed to have consensual sex with an undercover deputy.
However, no money ever changed hands and no laws were broken. The men were arrested because Louisiana has an outdated anti-sodomy law on the books. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it was unconstitutional nearly ten years ago.
Despite the outpouring of negative attention, many people in Baton Rouge today commended the Sheriff for his department's actions. One of the parks that was the focus of the sting operation is located off Jefferson Highway near Hoo Shoo Too Road.
"That's a family park where the kids go play ball, families picnic," Bob Mire said. "Being a public facility, I don't think these gay people should be using it for whatever they want."
"Parks are made for children and families," Randy Lee said. "When you have someone outside in a park doing what they were arrested for, they are doing their job."
The 12 men who were arrested never broke any laws. So, we had to ask if they would feel the same way if the men involved weren't gay.
"I don't think you should use a public park like that where families go and people play ball," Mire said.
"It's the same way," Lee said. "Parks are a meeting place for families and children."
Elected leaders and other gay rights activists are speaking out. Councilman John Delgado expressed outrage.
"I think it's scary for Baton Rouge who has tried so much to become America's next great city to be cast in this light," Delgado said. "I think the sheriff owes the city and people arrested an apology."
District Attorney Hillar Moore told News 2 he never prosecuted any of the men who were arrested for the undercover sting. However, he never explained why to the sheriff's office.
"We don't notify arresting agencies that your case is not prosecutable," Moore said. "When you have 25,000 cases per year and it's assigned to 50 different district attorneys and eight different sections of court, ten cases of this nature, it doesn't make it to anyone's attention because it was spread over two years."
The East Baton Rouge Parish Sheriff's Office apologized again today for the arrests. The sheriff also met with Moore to improve communication between the two offices.
"I want to apologize on behalf of our agency that the way these park investigations were handled made it appear that we were targeting the gay community," Sheriff Sid Gautreaux said. "That was not our intent."
Gautreaux also said he plans to review undercover operations after the incident, and has scheduled a meeting with the Capital City Alliance group to further dialogue between law enforcement and the LGBT community.
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