Our Views: An apology only a start

An apology from Sheriff Sid Gautreaux is quite justified, given the arrests of gay men on unenforceable “crime against nature” charges a decade since the laws were declared unconstitutional.

This is an embarrassment to Baton Rouge and should never have happened.

The Advocate found that at least a dozen men since 2011 were booked into Parish Prison on counts of attempted crime against nature. The district attorney’s office, correctly, declined to prosecute the cases because the men had committed no criminal violations.

Yet the deputies did not get the memo.

The sheriff said that his office had no intent of targeting gay residents. But that is what happened. Beyond an apology, the sheriff is right to reach out to Capital City Alliance, a local gay rights group, and get feedback from the community to ensure that law enforcement and the gay community become partners, not adversaries.

The sheriff is also right that keeping unenforceable laws like this on the books might lead to confusion, but we have our doubts that the Legislature can be blamed in this instance. It’s law enforcement’s duty to be on top of these issues, and the refusal of the district attorney to prosecute the first case should have raised red flags somewhere.

We would not blame the gay community for feeling that anti-gay animus was at work here, more than just miscommunication. The costs of these actions were paid not just by the taxpayer’s funding of pointless arrests, but the disruption in the lives of probably closeted gay men who suffered arrest and disclosure.

The apology is a bit late for them.

The antiquated anti-sodomy law should be repealed by the Legislature, certainly. That may be a fight for another day. We cannot help but think that today’s controversy should have been avoided.