Alex Blaze

There's so much wrong with this story

Filed By Alex Blaze | February 22, 2007 11:52 PM | comments

Filed in: Marriage Equality, The Movement
Tags: Baptist Church, lawrence v. texas, lonnie latham, oklahoma, sodomy laws

A new development in the case of the Rev. Lonnie W. Latham. He was a pretty outspoken Baptist fundamentalist who didn't really like the gays. According to the AP:

Latham had spoken against same-sex marriage and in support of a Southern Baptist resolution that called upon gays and lesbians to reject their lifestyle.
Well, on January 3, 2006, he invited an undercover cop up to his hotel room for a blow job. He was charged with misdemeanor lewdness for which he could face a $2500 fine and one year in jail. (I'm guessing that he will probably have to register as a sex offender as well, but I'm not a lawyer, I just play one on the internet.)

His attorney has filed a motion to have the charge thrown out, because basically a blow job isn't illegal post-Lawrence, and this is just gay-baiting. I think he's 100% right. These lewdness laws are usually written so vaguely that police can use them to play Capture the Fag. The ACLU is also jumping in and saying that the good Reverend's First Amendment rights were violated. The judge is expected to rule on this in about two weeks.

But what's so wrong with this is, first, that he's being charged and faces a rather large punishment for something that, really, wasn't illegal. The act of giving a blowjob isn't illegal, so asking someone else to do it can't be either. He's just being picked on because he's gay. Furthermore, it's an even worse punishment if he has to go to jail, and if the other guys there find out what he's in for.... Straight up, it's terrible what's happening to him, it's unjust, and I'm glad that Lambda Legal was able to get the Lawrence precedent to help him and that the ACLU is stepping in.

The obvious other half of this is that Latham was pretty anti-gay. He seems pretty mean-spirited to me, to be supporting such a resolution and being against marriage equality. Considering the dismissiveness of Justice Scalia in describing Lawrence as being based on a "right to sodomy", and that Latham probably agreed with him before his arrest, to see him turn around and use that case and to argue, according to the AP, that he "has a constitutional right to solicit sex from an undercover policeman", just makes me cringe. There's part of me that wants someone who fought against those rights, such basic privacy rights, to have no access to them at all. Some poetic justice for him. Burn, burn, burn for being a bad person.

But then I remember that he, like me, has a drive for sex and physical intimacy that no amount of Pauline erotophobia can erase, and that drive is at least partly directed at men, and no amount of ex-gaying can erase that. Getting/giving a blowjob in a hotel room might not seem that intimate or all that good, but for such a troubled man as he had to have been, that was probably the best he could do and the least he had to do. It's good that such a man got exposed, but it would be pretty heinous crime to send him to prison for it.

(Crossposted from Q-Bomb)

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Having lived in Oklahoma for over 10 years, I learned that just about everything that was fun to do sexually (both gay and straight) had been outlawed in the state. I'm guessing that asking for oral sex (without first buying someone a beer or dinner - *snicker*) would be considered an act of lewdness whether it were a gay act or a straight act. So one could argue from that respect that Latham's rights were not violated and Lawrence v. Texas would not apply.

But the arrest came at the Habana which is a gay inn for hooking up. It is said (by the police) that homeowners in the area had complained of 'activity' out on the street and that is why the police set up their 'stings.' Now I've never heard of anyone going after a place catering to straights in OKC; and there are were a few when I was there, some most notoriously just north of the state capitol. The Habana isn't really next-door to any homes and is on a street which runs alongside of the expressway (I-44 - as I remember it). So in targeting just the Habana are police targeting only gays (and mostly closeted ones at that)?

It's difficult to say how an Oklahoma judge will rule on this. One would generally assume that Latham will be convicted. Unless the judge is booked up and would just rather get rid of the case.

The president set by Lawrence v. Texas should trump any lewdness laws in Oklahoma, I would think, but I'm no lawyer, either.

The irony is pretty evident, though -- I love it when they hypocrisy snaps back on them.

Thanks for the extra info. This story was labeled as local by most news media and was archived off the internet, so all I had to go by was the AP article. I still think that this is a case of selective enforcement though, specifically for the reason that you point out - they aren't doing this to straight ministers. To be a fair enforcement of the law, it would have to go after straights 95% of the time, IMO.

Allen J. Lopp | February 23, 2007 4:22 PM

Although it may seem counter-intuitive, there can sometimes be a legal difference between an action being legal and the suggestion or encouragement of the action being legal.

The most obvious case in point is: suicide. I understand that suicide is no longer illegal in any state; but aiding and/or abetting a suicide is illegal, and certainly encouraging an emotionally vulnerable person to commit suicide is illegal.

(A special exception: In Oregon, where the voters have passed a carefully drafted doctor-assisted suicide law --- and said suicide must be requested in writing by a person with a medical condition that will be eventually terminal anyway.)

Whether a man asking another man to perform or receive a blow job would constitute lewd behavior depends, I think, upon the situation. Post-Lawrence, making such a suggestion in one's bedroom (or hotel room) would almost certainly be considered private, but making the suggestion in an inappropriate public place, such as in front of women and children who object to such behavior and/or language, might be found to constitute lewdness. At least, that is my non-professional understanding of the law.

Still the point is the same: It is sad that Rev. Latham is being victimized on a technicality, because he stated his full intentions on the (public) spot --- instead of simply asking, "Want to go up to my hotel room?" and not saying anything more until the two men were indeed inside the hotel room.

Wow - before I read the story, I assumed he'd offered money for the blow job. After all, prostitution is illegal... But no.

If asking/giving a blowjob is illegal now than there are lots of folks going to jail in Oklahoma, eh? Better close all the bars - gay and straight - and close down the internet too. Those dating services and "chat lines" will have to go. And, good Lord, don't even think of going to a bath house or "massage parlor."

come on guys..please grow up