26 Mar 2012

2 US gay men arrested on Caribbean cruise, recall 'horrible' experience

Two California men pleaded guilty to indecent exposure in the Caribbean island of Dominica after they were arrested on suspicion of the local equivalent of sodomy, which prohibits sex between two men.

It's a holiday turned nightmare for two American gay men who were arrested last Wednesday in Dominica, where sex between two men is illegal. 


John Robert Hart and Dennis Jay Mayer (right) 

The men identified in the media as John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 53, were on a gay cruise organised by Atlantis Events, a Southern California company that specialises in gay travel. They were on the Celebrity Summit cruise ship that carried some 2,000 passengers. Celebrity is a subsidiary of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd.


The pair, who are reportedly in a 17-year relationship, were allegedly seen having sex on the cruise ship by someone on the dock, and were initially charged with buggery (equivalent to sodomy) before they were eventually charged with indecent exposure. They were ordered to pay a fine of US$4,000.

Mayer, a retired police officer, said in an US TV interview: "This was a horrible experience. I'm not going to implicate myself one way or another, but we were charged with being naked on the balcony."

He told KTLA news the local authorities even wanted to have them medically evaluated. 

"They were going to transport us to a medical facility and have us medically examined to determine if we had engaged in sexual activity."

The men were held in in a cell at police headquarters in the capital of Roseau for 19 hours, and Mayer said the small cement cell they were stuck in was inhumane. "No light, no water, no toilet," he said. "We were taunted all night long. They paraded us around like we were some oddity."

Businessweek quoted Atlantis Events President Rich Campbell, who was aboard the cruise, as saying that the company has organised many trips to Dominica and would "happily return" although Mayer has confirmed that he'd never return to Dominica.

He calls what happened to Mayer and Hart "minor" and "unfortunate." 

"The guests were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and like getting a speeding ticket were simply caught, nothing more," Campbell said.

"Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books," he said. "These statutes don't pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit."

"The guests' actions were unfortunate but minor in this case and have no bearing on our overall guest experience," he added.

The Caribbean Islands is a popular cruise region even for gay cruises despite sodomy being illegal in the majority of those countries. In 2010, the Cayman Islands rejected the arrival of an Atlantis gay cruise amid protests from religious groups even though homosexuality is legal on the archipelago. The presence of gay cruises in the region has also riled several other conservative islands including Jamaica and Grenada, where sodomy is illegal.

Watch KTLA news video here and here.