Sodomy Arrest Guidelines Revised
Critics say rules on solicitation is [sic] still
weighted against gays
Observer, July 6, 2003
P. O. Box 2138, Charlotte, NC 28233
By Cristina C. Breen, Staff Writer
Charlotte-Mecklenburg police have revised guidelines that
officers use when arresting people accused of soliciting sodomy in public
But the change, in response to last month’s U.S.
Supreme Court decision to overturn the Texas sodomy law, isn’t extensive
enough for some gay rights advocates, who worry police policies still unfairly
The new guidelines say police no longer can arrest people
they suspect are meeting in public and agreeing to have anal or oral sex in a
home or another private place.
Officers can still arrest people on suspicion of meeting
in public and arranging to perform those acts in a public place or at an
unspecified place. And offering or asking for money for sodomy is still
considered soliciting a crime against nature.
The Carolinas are two of 13 states with sodomy laws that
were brought into question when the Supreme Court overturned the Texas law
banning same-sex sodomy.
In North Carolina, crime-against-nature laws make it a
felony for homosexual or unmarried heterosexual couples to have anal or oral
sex. And people could be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for simply
agreeing to those acts.
Gay rights advocates and defense lawyers say they don’t
condone people soliciting sex in public, but they argue that police act
unfairly when they arrest people on suspicion of soliciting only certain types
of sex in public. It is legal, for instance, for a man and woman to meet in
public and plan to have intercourse, no matter where it is to happen. But it
is illegal for people to solicit anal or oral sex, unless it is to happen in a
“You can’t say, ‘If you talk about this kind of
sex, it’s illegal and if you talk about this kind of sex, it’s not.’ The
Supreme Court said sex acts for consenting adults are on an equal playing
field,’” said Ray Warren, a Charlotte defense attorney who came out as a
gay man while serving as a Superior Court judge.
Charlotte criminal defense lawyer Chris Connelly said he
believes “the real tenor of this case is not does it happen in somebody’s
home or somewhere else outside the home. It’s about people having the right
to make a decision how to live their lives.”
But police officials say the Supreme Court decision
involved two men who were arrested while committing a sex act in a private
home. It didn’t address solicitation of a crime against nature in public,
they say, so they will continue to make arrests for those actions.
Police say many of their crime-against-nature arrests
happen in public areas such as parks, after citizens call to complain about
seeing people trolling for sex partners or seeing actual sexual activities
“We are certainly not in the business of peeking in
folks’ windows, even if we have enough people and time” said vice Capt.
Tim Jayne. “These sex acts often are engaged in in wide open, wooded areas
around parks and in restrooms. ... And it’s not specific to gays.”
The relationship between police and some members of the
gay community has been stormy over the issue of the state’s crime against
nature laws. Warren and some others claim officers entrap gay men by coming on
to them in parks and other places and coercing them to agree to commit sodomy
so they can arrest them.
Jayne, the police captain, says that doesn’t happen.
“Our folks do not go out and solicit conversations,” he said.
In North Carolina and 12 other states across the country
with sodomy laws, the courts will end up deciding how to interpret the Supreme
Court’s ruling, said Duke University law professor Chris Schroeder.
While the Supreme Court ruling was clear that states
cannot enforce crimes-against-nature laws for activity in the privacy of
citizens’ homes, “What is open to debate is how much ... beyond the
privacy of one’s own home the case extends,” Schroeder said.
“I think state officials and local officials are in the
correct position to interpret that,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a
lay-down obvious answer.”
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