Friday, June 25, 2004

Lambda Legal Publishes Little Black Book; What To Do If You’re Arrested While Cruising

(Article published in Lavender Magazine, Issue #237, June 25, 2004)

Spring is almost here. For some men, that means the outdoor cruising season will soon begin.

Unfortunately, whether outdoors or indoors, cruising for man-to-man sex in public or semi-public places carries with it the danger of police harassment.

Little Black Book, a new one-page publication by Lambda Legal, tells men who have sex with men what to do—and what not to do—if they are harassed or arrested while cruising.

The publication is part of a major national campaign by Lambda Legal to fight police harassment and other harms men face when cruising for sex.

Plans call for Little Black Book and its Spanish-language companion, El Librito Privado, to be distributed both in print and online through links on high-traffic websites catering to men who have sex with men.

According to Michael Adams, Director of Education and Public Affairs at Lambda Legal, “There have been many cases where police have entrapped men or intimidated them into giving up their rights.”

This happens in part because many gay men taken into police custody do not know their basic civil rights, and therefore allow them to be trampled upon by prosecutors or the police.

In some cases, according to Adams, police and local prosecutors inappropriately use laws, such as sodomy laws, that have been struck down and are no longer on the books.

Besides being a good primer on those basic civil rights, Little Black Book debunks many longstanding cruising myths.

For example, men who leave their driver’s license at home or in the car when they cruise might want to reconsider that habit. The publication notes that if you’re arrested, “Providing your ID (driver’s license, green card, passport) may decrease your chances of spending time in jail, especially if you don’t have a criminal record.”

Another example in Little Black Book might come as news to many men: “A cop doesn’t have to tell you he’s a cop, even if you ask.” Even if the undercover officer is hitting on you (rather than you unwittingly hitting on a cop), the publication notes that entrapment is difficult to prove.

Lambda Legal represented the plaintiffs in Lawrence and Garner v. Texas and scored a major victory when, as a result of that case, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down all laws banning consensual sex by adults in private, including oral and anal sex.

However, there are still many other laws on the books that can be used against men busted while cruising, such as laws against sex in public, laws against adultery or prostitution, or laws against criminal transmission of HIV.

The stakes can be high for men arrested while cruising. The publication notes that a conviction, or even simply being arrested, can result in a fine, jail time, forfeiting property, having to register as a “sex offender,” and can have consequences affecting military or immigration status, employment, licensing or child custody.

Many men panic when they are arrested. According to Little Black Book, that’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Other things to avoid are “trying to get it over with quickly by ‘confessing,’ trying to talk your way out of the problem, or trying to deal with the police on your own.”

Lambda Legal instead advises men who are arrested while cruising to remain calm and provide identification but to answer no questions without a lawyer. And not just any lawyer—”Your lawyer should be a criminal defense attorney, who understands the law and the courts where the arrest occurred.”

The full text of Little Black Book and El Librito Privado can be viewed and downloaded as a PDF file at Lambda Legal’s website (<>). The publication is being distributed to LGBT community centers, HIV/AIDS organizations that do safer sex programming, community-based health organizations and gay and lesbian national hotlines.

Plans call for banner ads linking to Little Black Book on the websites of various non-profit groups serving the LGBT and HIV communities. In addition, links to the publication will be placed on the home pages of high-traffic websites including Badpuppy, Cruising For Sex and Kinky Personals.

Yahoo groups that will post a link to Little Black Book on their homepages include Best Gay Sex Spots, Best Gay Sex Places, New York City PozQueers and Mano a Mano.

Lambda Legal is the oldest and largest non-profit legal organization devoted to advancing civil rights for lesbians, gay men, bisexuals, the transgendered and people with HIV or AIDS. Founded in 1973, the organization is headquartered in New York City and maintains four regional offices in Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta and Dallas.

Lambda Legal Offers Help Desk

One popular community service provided by Lambda Legal is a Help Desk. During certain hours Lambda Legal staff respond directly to callers seeking legal information and assistance with sexual orientation- and HIV/AIDS-related discrimination. The organization says it receives many Help Desk calls from men looking for legal assistance after being arrested or harassed by the police while cruising.

To the extent that the organization’s resources and priorities allow, Lambda Legal takes on legal representation of callers whose situations present significant litigation issues. For many others, Lambda Legal provides leads to other organizations and practical information that might help them address their problems.

Minnesotans can call the Help Desk at Lambda Legal’s Midwestern Regional Office in Chicago at 312-663-4413. Hours (Central Time, subject to change) are Tuesdays 1-3:30 P.M., Wednesdays 2-4:30 P.M. and Thursdays 10:30 A.M.-1 P.M.

Spanish Help Desk assistance is available Wednesdays 10 A.M.-noon by calling the South Central Regional Office in Dallas at 214-219-8585.

Lambda Legal says it greatly prefers to offer Help Desk assistance by telephone. If this is impossible, however, individuals can send an e-mail to <>. It is very important to include in the e-mail the city and state where the incident occurred, so that the organization can refer to the laws of the correct jurisdiction.

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