Law

Nine arrested for ‘illegal sexual activities’ after cops raid book store cruising spot

Maggie Baska July 22, 2021
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Police riot gear anti-sodomy gay sex raid

Several arrests have been made during a Maryland police 20 May 2021 raid on a video and book store, including four men charged under the state's archaic anti-sodomy law. (Envato Elements)

A police raid on a Maryland book store saw nine people arrested for “illegal sexual activities”, including four men charged under the state’s archaic anti-sodomy law.

The Washington Blade reported that the Harford County Sheriff’s Office carried out a raid on 20 May on the Bush River Books & Video store in Abington, Maryland.

A statement from the police to the news outlet explained that the operation was prompted by an “increased number of concerns and allegations of a wide variety of illegal activity” from “citizens and patrons of the business”.

An undercover deputy entered the store and “observed a variety of illegal sexual activities”, the statement continued. Police said that during the raid, an “additional undercover female deputy” was “solicited for prostitution”.

According to the Washington Blade, nine individuals in total were arrested. Four people were charged with so-called “perverted sexual practice”, the name of the state’s anti-sodomy law. One of the four was also charged with indecent exposure.

The others are facing charges of indecent exposure or solicitation of prostitution.

A friend of one of the men arrested told the Washington Blade that the man rented one of the store’s private rooms to watch videos. They said he was in the room with another male friend when the police “in full riot gear unlocked his room and arrested him and his friend”.

“They spent the night in jail and were badly treated,” the friend told the Washington Blade.

One of the men arrested in the raid said he didn’t know why “people have a problem with this”, and he described the shop as a place where “we go to meet people like us”.

“But, you know, I went inside and was hooking up with someone and the next thing I know, eight of us were against the wall with handcuffs with plastic zip ties on them,” he told the Washington Blade.

“And we all spent the night in jail. I was released at like six o’clock in the morning.”

US sodomy laws
SAN FRANCISCO – JUNE 29: Madame Glinka of San Francisco at the 2003 Pride Parade celebrating the Lawrence v Texas verdict. (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Anti-sodomy laws were overturned by the Supreme Court in 2003

Maryland’s law against “perverted sexual practices” prohibits oral sex with other people and animals. It also bans any other “unnatural or perverted sexual practice with another [person] or with an animal”.

The text does not explicitly name gay or bisexual people, but historically such laws have targeted and been enforced against men having sex with other men.

The Maryland law has remained on the books despite the 2003 ruling from the US Supreme Court in Lawrence v Texas which struck down laws criminalising gay relationships. The decision declared that prohibiting private same-sex activity between consenting adults was unconstitutional.

Attorney Greg Nevins, senior counsel for Lambda Legal, told the Washington Blade he believed there is a strong case that a private, locked video room – like the one at the bookstore – would be considered the same as locked hotel rooms.

“There are cases around the country discussing whether certain areas are private, usually focusing on whether the participants had a reasonable expectation of privacy,” Nevins explained.

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