Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit against a Tennessee town and its police chief after the police department released an arrest photo of a bisexual man following a public sex sting operation.
Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit against Johnson City, Tennessee and its police chief on behalf of Kenneth Giles, a man who had his photo released along with 39 other men who were arrested in a public sex sting operation.
After the Johnson City Police Department released photos of the suspects and other personal information to the media, the local news ran the story prominently along with the pictures and addresses of the men involved. Since the press release, one man has committed suicide and several others have lost their jobs, including Giles.
A one-year review of the police department’s press releases by Lambda Legal revealed that out of approximately 600 other releases, none pertaining to arrests was accompanied by photos or personally approved by the chief. The unwarranted actions of the JCPD are the latest in a long history of the police going beyond legitimate law enforcement measures to take extraordinary action designed to target gay men for humiliation and harassment. (See “Instances of Bias in Law Enforcement,” below).
Lambda Legal is arguing that the JCPD violated federal equal protection law by singling out these men for harsher treatment by making their images available to the media. “In America, the police do not get to add an extra punishment to people they don’t like,” says Lambda Legal Supervising Senior Staff Attorney Greg Nevins. “They also do not get to ignore the principle of innocent until proven guilty.”
The case is Giles v. City of Johnson City, et al.
Instances of Bias In Law Enforcement:
- In three separate cases over the last dozen years, the federal and state courts of California have found evidence of police departments’ selectively targeting gay men for enforcement of public sex laws while failing to devote the same enforcement efforts to public sex between men and women.
- Police have often sought to punish men arrested for lewd conduct, often before conviction of any crime, through unusual public exposure of these arrests. One common practice has been sending reports of the arrests of gay men to their employers and landlords.
- Law enforcement officials have falsely suggested that gay men are more responsible than heterosexuals for sexual assaults on children. According to a study of abused children in the Denver area where the abuser could be identified, only 2 of the 269 children were abused by a gay man or lesbian.