22 Jun 2022

New York police no longer targeting men cruising bathrooms

It's about time we saw an end to the homophobic targeting of gay men.

New York’s Port Authority Police Department will end its practice of sending plainclothes officers into public bathrooms to catch people propositioning others for sex. These so-called public lewdness patrols have long been criticized by activists claiming that they target gay men.
The decision came as part of a settlement earlier this month resolving a lawsuit brought by two men who were arrested as a result of such patrols. Critics of the practice claim that these types of stings targeted men who were perceived to be gay by officers in an effort to inflate their arrest statistics.
Related: Police sued for targeting gay men in NYC using undercover urinal cops
As part of the settlement, new recruits to the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey Police Department will also receive LGBTQ sensitivity training for the next three years.
The lawsuit named Cornell Holden and Miguel Mejia, who were both charged with public lewdness. Both claimed they were falsely accused by officers of masturbating while standing at urinals in Port Authority Bus Terminal restrooms. Holden and Mejia were cleared of all charges according to the Associated Press.
“This kind of blatant homophobia has no place in policing, and the reforms achieved in this lawsuit aim to safeguard against future abuses like the ones experienced and challenged by Mr. Holden and Mr. Mejia,” Molly Griffard, an attorney for The Legal Aid Society, which represented the plaintiffs, said in a statement.
Port Authority officials denied any misconduct, but the practice of entrapping people in public bathrooms has been common for years. In 2017, another class-action suit accused Port Authority police officers of engaging in discrimination by falsely arresting men perceived as gay at the Port Authority Bus Terminal on baseless charges including public lewdness and exposure. The New York Daily News reported that the urinals in the terminal’s bathrooms have privacy walls — which should block prying eyes “under any definition of normal circumstances,” according to the suit. The paper reported that the officers stare at their targets while they’re using the urinal.
“In some cases, the officer will actually step back from the urinal in order to see around the privacy wall, in an effort to view the target’s hands and genitals,” said the lawyers in the 2017 complaint, a claim echoed by Holden and Mejia’s description of their arrests.
In 2018, William Campbell sued New York’s Metropolitan Transit Authority after he was humiliated and arrested while trying to use the bathroom in Grand Central Terminal. Campbell said an MTA police officer tried to induce him to have sex and despite being rejected, the cop arrested him without cause.

New York’s Port Authority Police Department has announced that it is ending its practice of sending plainclothes officers into public bathrooms to catch people propositioning others for sex.

They're known as public lewdness patrols, and they've been targeting gay men cruising for sex.

The change in policy has been forced by a lawsuit brought by two men who had been arrested by plainclothes officers conducting a lewdness patrol.

The men claimed that they were falsely accused by officers of masturbating while standing at urinals in Port Authority Bus Terminal restrooms. The two men were not convicted of any crime.

This is not the first time that legal action has been brought against the Port Authority for entrapping gay men in public bathrooms, but it seems that the message has finally got through.

What's life like for LGBTQ people in the United States?

What's life like for LGBTQ people in the United States? Let's take a look at some of the key equality indicators.

Is it legal to be gay in the US?

One of the complexities of the experience of LGBTQ people in the United States is that much of the legislative framework for the country varies on a state-by-state basis.

It was only as a result of a Supreme Court decision in 2003 that same-sex sexual activity has been legal in all US states.

There is still some variation in the age of consent – it varies from 16 to 18, and some states have different ages of consent for same-sex sexual relations.

Is there anti-discrimination legislation in place to protect LGBTQ people in the US?

Yes. Federal anti-discrimination protections have been extended to all employees across the country. This now means that LGBTQ employees can’t be fired for revealing their sexuality.

Is there marriage equality in the US?

It was a 2015 Supreme Court decision that requires all states to licence and recognise same-sex marriages.

What’s life like for LGBTQ people who live in the US?

There have been huge advancements for LGBTQ people, with some landmark Supreme Court cases that have made symbolic and practical steps forward in achieving equality.

The modern LGBTQ Pride movement was born in the US in 1970 – marking the anniversary of the Stonewall riots in New York City in 1969. The month of June is now designated as Pride Month across the US, with a huge number of parades and events held in communities of all sizes.

In many ways, the US could be described as one of the best countries in the world to be gay, however numerous problems still exist.

The attack against the gay club in Orlando in 2016 was obviously an extreme event, but 49 people were killed and 53 people were injured in what should have been a safe space.

LGBTQ teen homelessness and rates of self-harm and suicide are disturbingly high – particularly for people from non-white ethnicities.

Trans people are routinely vilified by conservative politicians. Black Trans Women are particularly vulnerable to violence and abuse.

There appears to be a rising tide of homophobia, fuelled by right-wing politicians and media outlets that see it as a populist move.