Former US Baptist leader tried for soliciting gay sex

Anthony Cuesta | February 26, 2007

TULSA — The arrest of a former Southern Baptist church leader on charges of propositioning an undercover policeman was unconstitutional, his attorney argued at trial in Oklahoma City on Thursday.

The Rev. Lonnie W. Latham had supported a resolution calling on gays and lesbians to reject their “sinful, destructive lifestyle” before his Jan. 3, 2006, arrest outside the Habana Inn in Oklahoma City.

According to the Associated Press, authorities say he asked the undercover policeman to come up to his hotel for oral sex.

Latham’s attorney, Mack Martin, filed a motion to have the misdemeanor lewdness charge thrown out, saying the Supreme Court ruled in the 2003 decision Lawrence v. Texas that it was not illegal for consenting adults to engage in private homosexual acts.

“Now, my client's being prosecuted basically for having offered to engage in such an act, which basically makes it a crime to ask someone to do something that's legal,” Martin said, reports the AP.

The arrest last year sent shockwaves through much of the Southern Baptist community in Oklahoma, since Latham had been involved in the church on a national level. KOTV News On 6 reports Reverend Lonnie Latham was very outspoken against homosexuality before he was accused of approaching a male undercover police officer in Oklahoma City for a sex act.

Prosecutors say the government has a legitimate interest in regulating offers for lewd acts. Both sides have agreed Latham never offered money to the undercover officer and the police report will be the only evidence presented, reports News On 6.

According to the AP, the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma has filed a brief claiming that Latham's arrest also violated his right to free speech.

Judge Roma M. McElwee will rule on the motion and issue a verdict in two weeks, reportst the AP. If convicted of the misdemeanor, Latham faces up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine. – Issued by Gay Link Content

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