A Los Angeles gay rights organisation has criticised the decision by Manhattan Beach police, and many local media outlets, to publish the names and photographs of 18 men arrested for having sex in public restrooms, the L.A. Times reports.
Leaders of the L.A. Gay & Lesbian Centre warn that releasing the photographs and names could lead to public humiliation. The police arrested the 18 men as part of a sting operation at a restroom located beside the beach at the foot of Marine Avenue. The social service agency reported that one arrestee attempted suicide after the results of the sting were published.
The case has sparked discussion across different news sites. Some support publishing names and photos, believing it will dissuade others from having sex in public. Others criticise the move, saying it is reminiscent of historic public shaming of gay men.
Jim Key, chief spokesman for the Gay & Lesbian Center, told the L.A. times that the Manhattan Beach Police Department could have worked with the center to try to stop men from meeting in the restroom. He added the Los Angeles Police Department took the public education approach, rather than mass arrests, to cut down on a public sex problem at Griffith Park.
Darrel Cummings, the center’s chief of staff, said news organisations should use more discretion before identifying suspects in what he called a victimless crime.
“Naturally we don’t condone illegal activity of any kind,” Cummings said in a statement, “but these men haven’t been proven guilty and historically, charges such as those levelled against them have involved police entrapment. Publishing their photos serves no purpose other than to humiliate and destroy their lives.”
City Attorney Roxanne Diaz denies that the police released names and photographs of the arrested because of their sexual orientation. She said that police in L.A. commonly release names, birthdates and photos of those arrested for crimes including low-level misdemeanors.