Alex Blaze

Didn't you hear? Kissing has been banned!

Filed By Alex Blaze | July 10, 2009 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: anti-discrimination, el paso, guns, kissing, legislation, pigs, police, Texas

In El Paso, a gay couple was kicked out of a restaurant for kissing. If that wasn't bad enough, the police who showed up apparently didn't know the law:

The officer informed the group it was illegal for two men or two women to kiss in public, de Leon said. The five were told they could be cited for homosexual conduct - a charge the U.S. Supreme Court ruled unconstitutional in 2003 in Lawrence v. Texas. That same year, the city of El Paso passed an ordinance banning discrimination based on sexual orientation by employees of the city and by businesses open to the public.

And you're going to love this quotation from the detective on the case:

"The security guard received a complaint from some of the customers there," Carrillo said. "Every business has the right to refuse service. They have the right to refuse service to whoever they don't want there. That's their prerogative."

Really? They could, say, tell 60 black campers to go home if they feared they would change the complexion of their pool because they're a business and every business has the prerogative to refuse service?

I know that neither of these people are lawyers, but it would be really nice if law officers actually knew what a crime is and what isn't. It's hard to have them out there arresting people for violating the law when they don't even seem to know what the law is.

More importantly, it's rather telling that their lack of knowledge went in one direction: against the gay couple that experienced discrimination at the restaurant. Is it really too much to ask for properly trained police officers?

If we're going to give some dudes guns and tell them they're in charge, we should at least make sure they know the rules. Otherwise it turns into any other situation where a dude with a gun in charge: an excuse to beat down on whatever powerless or unliked group presents itself.

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Lawsuit filed and settled. Hope they all can buy a nice car with the money. maybe more.

Erich Riesenberg | July 11, 2009 8:07 AM

Why so flippant?

Thank goodness for the public interest legal groups that get involved.

A. J. Lopp | July 11, 2009 1:23 PM

Yes indeed. We might laugh, or we might work to develop support for a higher level of professionalism among our law enforcement groups. See my longer comment below.

Even worse is the gay couple in Salt Lake City who were confronted by about 10 LDS security guards, roughed up, handcuffed and charged with trespassing for holding hands and a kiss on the cheek while walking along a public easement through LDS property.

There is a first-hand account from one of the men here.

One of the security guards even flashed a fake badge and claimed to be a police officer.

Pam's House Blend has a post on this.

A. J. Lopp | July 11, 2009 1:14 PM

This is a perfect example for supporting the idea that law enforcement organizations ought to, at a minimum, be required to have a one-day workshop on cultural sensitivity training which includes LGBT issues (and here, I would put quite an emphasis on the "T" since transgenderism is one of the most commonly misunderstood ways for being "queer").

A local county sheriff visits our Community Unity group here in Corydon from time to time, sometimes discussing with us issues such as human smuggling and illegal immigration. (The local cops do not consider themselves to be immigration officers --- instead, they become concerned about issues such as children that are not getting proper schooling, and overcrowding too many people into a small rural house.) In passing, he mentioned that once a sheriff deputy was calling to a domestic violence scene, and was a bit "freaked out" to find that the domestic violence involved two men living together.

This prompted me to ask if law enforcement officers get any type of cultural sensitivity training. He answered that any such exposure is up to the responsibility of the individual officer --- if the officer knows of a source of training, and asks for tuition reimbursement, the request might be approved, but there are no funds available for the blanket training of all sheriff personnel.

Moreover, it is very important that law enforcement people get proper training regarding HIV/AIDS, because it is possible that confidentiality laws can be unintentionally violated if the rules are not understood in detail. I have been told by a reliable source that problems in this regard have been found in some of the rural Indiana counties, but the health department steps in quickly and provides the training whenever a problem is identified.

Clearly, some jurisdictions need such training more than others. On the other hand, this is the type of thing that does not happen unless the citizenry considers it important enough to support with funding. It might be a constructive approach to ensure that law enforcement folks get proper training before we resort to setting up community oversight committees, police liaison representatives to minority populations, and similar arrangements which are common in the larger US cities.

Robert Ganshorn Robert Ganshorn | July 12, 2009 6:13 AM

AJ, it would be a wonderful thing if police officers were less insular, but they are not. We need to lobby the police department just as we lobby a representative's office. Anyone who comes to "the job" who is culturally sensitive is quickly overwhelmed by the opinions of the majority and a one day class cannot change deeply held attitudes. Cops are told they are the thin blue line and need to control people. Many come to enjoy controlling people.

I don't say all police are bad people, far from it. I have witnessed wonderful acts by police officers state, county and local if it involved car accidents, home break ins, drug abatement. I worked with CAPS in Chicago for over ten years trying to keep kids safe and drugs...or at least undercover so a kid could walk home from school safely.

In my travels through smallville (pick a state) I have seen local cops who were stupid bullies on the playground (or local football or basketball stars) who grew into uniformed officers because their father knew a businessman, who knew... somebody. All police departments are local in small towns and that sure includes El Paso. They come to the job with a mind set about their community before they start and get a skewed perspective from the older cops. Most places you can still get a pass from a cop if you have the right sticker on your car.

I do not know much about this. Heck, just in Michigan City my brother in law (2nd marriage for dad) was a police captain, my nephew was a patrolman, his wife (my niece) was a police dispatcher and a kid from my block was another patrolman. That is without my uncle who was a deputy sheriff in Syracuse.

I was never happier in my life when my partner drunk the police captain under the table for New Years in 1980 because he could not allow himself to be bested by the "faggot" boyfriend of me. No, he never called him that word. He loved my father too much and my father loved me too much and he knew it.

But mostly, it would have been because my partner would have knocked the crap out of him. I still believe that every county or state with a LGBT org should visit with the chiefs of police. All that cops understand is a direct order from above. Assume they know nothing and you are on safe ground. Now, if all police across America had a requirement of a BA in criminology and an assignment to a community they did not grow up, and a salary befitting their education, it would be different. Mostly locals vote for "good enough."

Despite a few personal interactions that were all dandy and professional with our local law enforcement here in Bellingham, WA, - hearing them refer to our local gay bar as "THE FAGGOT BAR" on their police dispatch made reality hit home.