Cops target gay men in Kent County parks
By BTL Staff and AP Wire
Originally printed 12/22/2011 (Issue 1951 - Between The Lines News)
GRAND RAPIDS -
Activists in western Michigan say sheriff's deputies have been unfairly targeting gay men in Kent County parks by striking up conversations with them while working undercover. Thirty-three men were arrested in the parks in 2010 under Michigan's soliciting law but many simply were talking or holding hands, critics told county commissioners Dec. 13.
"In these cases, it's the officers who are making the approaches. It's the officers who are doing the accosting and soliciting," said Miriam Aukerman of the American Civil Liberties Union.
The Grand Rapids Press http://bit.ly/vnjrrU reports that Sheriff Larry Stelma defended his deputies and said they're simply trying to keep parks safe.
"This is sensationalizing and a distortion of what's happening," Stelma said. "We do not arrest anybody, male or female, for holding hands."
Aukerman said in half the reports she examined law officers initiated the contact with those they later arrested. She noted that the practice of using undercover cops in search of gay men seeking companionship has a long history.
Michigan law makes it illegal for someone to use a public place to invite another to commit a "lewd or immoral act." The statute states: "A person 16 years of age or older who accosts, solicits, or invites another person in a public place or in or from a building or vehicle, by word, gesture, or any other means, to commit prostitution or to do any other lewd or immoral act is guilty of a crime."
"If you look at the exact language of the statute, you could apply it to what happens in bars and restaurants in Kent County on any Friday or Saturday night," Aukerman said. "We have concerns about laws that limit the behavior of consenting adults."
She said there's nothing illegal about flirting.
Kent County attorney Dan Ophoff said changes in how deputies deal with such situations are already in the works, although authorities believe past arrests complied with the law. He said some cases were dropped before getting to court.
Some commissioners wanted to know why no men stepped forward to talk about their treatment.
"These are just devastating experiences for these men," said Collette Seguin Beighley, a member of Equality Michigan and director of Grand Valley State University's Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Resource Center, "Many of them are closeted and the consequences are so huge, the cost of having their cars impounded and the risk of being on the sex offender list. I know men who had hoped to be (at the meeting) but said, `If they're targeting gay men, I'm not going to give my name and address."'
- Honoring The Death Of Trans Sisters And Brothers
- Trans In Michigan? The ACLU Wants To Hear From You
- Schuette Wants State's 300 Same-Sex Marriages Voided
- Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Expansion Precarious
- Renowned Gay Writers To Visit Ann Arbor
- New MI Group Aims To Pass Fully Inclusive Civil Rights Amendment
- Facebook Community Reacts To 6th Circuit Ruling
- Pay It Forward This Holiday Season
- Federal Court Rules 2011 Law Prohibiting Domestic Partner Benefits Unconstitutional
- States In 6th Circuit Request SCOTUS Review
- AT&T National 'Will Only Support Fully Inclusive Bill' On Civil Rights
- Michigan GOP Pushes Non-Inclusive Elliott-Larsen Amendment
- Upcoming Community Michigan LGBT Marriage Conversations
- Statewide Campaign For Gender Inclusive Civil Rights Amendment
- The Long Shot Move To Pass Inclusive Civil Rights Amendment
- Jeremy Moss To Be Next State House Representative
- People Of Faith Invited To Community Conversation
- Obituary: Ernest B. Gutierrez 'Tito'
- Michigan's Marriage Ban Draws Strong Reaction
- Jon Hoadley: Next State House Rep. District 60
- Airport Transportation
- Rides of Pride
- Art Fairs
- Ann Arbor Art Fairs
- Dino's Lounge
- Prism of Possibilities Psychotherapy
- Leather Gear
- Noir Leather
- Photo Booth
- Moto Photo
- Water Work Plumbing
- Religious & Spiritual
- Unitarian Universalist Church of Greater Lansing
- Oakland University Dept. of Music, Theatre & Dance
- Visitors Bureau
- Tourism Windsor Essex
Enter contests to win great prizes like CDs, DVDs, concert tickets and more
- Q&A: Lisa Kudrow On Judging 'Drag Race' (As Valerie Cherish!) & Gays Being Biologically 'Superhuman'
- Q&A: Andy Cohen On His (Almost) Tell-All Book, 'Nasty' Names Gays Call Him
- GOP Hopeful Wants 'Christians' Fleeing MI If Gays Get Civil Rights
- Divine Intervention: Bette Midler Talks Early Gay Support, 'Diva' Degradation & Twerking ('Girls, Please!')
- Creep of the Week: Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!
This Week's Issue
Download or view this week's print issue today!
Sign up to receive our weekly newsletters today!