Does private, consensual gay sex warrant a police raid? How about a smear campaign?
In Florida last month, officers of the Hollywood Police Department raided an adult store called the Pleasure Emporium. Someone had called the cops claiming that patrons were committing lewd acts inside; an undercover couple went to the store, purchased tickets for an adult video room, and found gay men allegedly performing sex acts either on themselves or with each other. It wasn't prostitution, but the cops decided it violated the statutes against lascivious acts and exposure of sexual organs. The arrests followed, and a police report noted the identities of those involved.
Just a day later, the men became victims of what the Miami New Times has rightly called a smear campaign.
Local outlets such as WPLG and The Miami Herald posted the men's names and mugshots. Abbie Cuellar, a lawyer representing one of the men, tells the New Times that her client lost his job as a result. The man had fled Cuba two decades ago because he was persecuted for being gay; he saw the United States as a "beacon of 'freedom.'"
"Imagine: You're having sex with a consenting adult," she says, "and then you're arrested and held overnight, and your whole, entire life has been exposed on TV. Your picture is everywhere. You're on the internet! My client has even been getting calls from Cuba. This was horrible, horrible, horrible"
After the New Times reached out, the Herald revised its story by removing the arrestees' identities and mugshots. A joke about the arrested watching The Rocky Horror Picture Show was also removed. An editor's note read, "This story has been updated to remove portions deemed inappropriate under the Miami Herald's editorial standards."
The New Times also tried to contact the journalist who wrote the WPLG story, but it did not receive an immediate response. The WPLG story has not, at this point, been revised.