NEW ORLEANS— The East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s Department has been persecuting and arresting men in public parks for doing nothing more than what the law permits them to do: have conversations setting up private meetings, in private places outside the park. These conversations are fully protected by the First Amendment. To the extent that they might involve issues of private sexual conduct, that conduct itself is fully protected under Lawrence v. Texas, which in 2003 struck down laws banning consensual sex acts among adults.
The Louisiana statute that remains on the books, banning “crimes against nature,” has been unenforceable against consenting adults for a decade. It is the job of law enforcement to know what is valid law and what is not. The people of Baton Rouge are entitled to a law enforcement system that actually enforces the law. That means protecting people whose conduct is legal - such as adults engaging in conversation about anything they choose in public places. The men who have been arrested should have had the protection, not the persecution, of their law enforcement officials, and Sheriff Sid Gautreaux must educate his staff on the proper role of law enforcement in a free society.
It is time for these wrongful arrests, and the persecution of these individuals, to stop.