Governor: Its Not OK to Have Public Sex in Massachusetts
March 2, 2001
BOSTON (Associated Press) In case theres any
doubt: Massachusetts has not lost its Puritan values.
Gov. Paul Cellucci issued an admonishment Friday that the state
"absolutely would not tolerate any sexual activity in public rest
His clarification came after Massachusetts State Police released what
appeared to be relaxed guidelines on how troopers should deal with possible
sexual activity in public places.
State police reached an agreement in a legal battle with a gay man who
twice was forced by a trooper to leave a highway rest area. As part of the
settlement with the man, who was not identified, police agreed to release a
"general order" on how troopers should treat people who are tempted
to have sex in public places.
The general order points out that its illegal to have sex in a
"public place," but it throws into question what might be considered
a public place. It also says no one can be asked to leave a public area unless
there is unlawful conduct.
"An area may be open to the public and not be considered a public
place" if the area is hidden so that a reasonable person wouldnt
expect to be seen by passers-by, the guidelines said.
"There are laws against having sex in public places and those laws
have been on the books for a number of years and we will enforce those
laws," said State Police Capt. Robert Bird.
But he said, "If youre in a park and you go off the path and into
the bushes, then its not necessarily a public place, because you have a
reasonable expectation you wont be seen."
Its that last part that leaves some room for interpretation, and left
the governors office uneasy.
"There has been no change in the State Police policy regarding
enforcement of the Commonwealths criminal statutes," the governor said
in a statement.
"The concern was that ... a family may feel they could not stop at a
rest area safely and free from seeing something they may not want to
see," said Cellucci spokesman Jason Kauppi. "Thats simply not the
There was no money paid other than legal fees in the settlement with the
gay man, who was asked to leave a public rest area on Route 6 at least twice
by Trooper Shawn Walsh. The man filed a lawsuit in August 1999, alleging state
police were motivated by anti-gay stereotypes.
State police alleged the man had "unlawful intent" by being at
the rest stop.
In the fall of 1999, a Middlesex Superior Court judge barred state police
from forcing the man to leave the public rest area as long as he wasnt
breaking the law.
Gary Buseck, executive director of Gay & Lesbian Advocates &
Defenders, said police were reacting to evolving laws.
"Its been somewhat of an adjustment for our police forces to kind
of come on along with these developing notions of privacy and to get a sense
of leaving some of this behavior behind," he said.
State police already have begun training new recruits on the issues in the
general order, and existing officers must also be trained on its principles.
"We dont set the rules," Bird said. "The Legislature
passes laws and our courts interpret them and its our job to enforce the
laws as theyre written by the Legislature and interpreted by the
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