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ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU * ACLU NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE * NEWS RELEASE Lima Law Declared Unconstitutional; 41 Arrests Made At Gay Bar Dismissed For IMMEDIATE RELEASE September 24, 1990 In its first victory, the newly formed Gay/Lesbian Rights Project of the American Civil Liberties Union of Ohio has won dismissal of all charges filed against 41 people arrested during a June raid on a gay bar in Lima. On June 10, Lima police raided The Office Bar, arresting 41 patrons, the manager and the bartender on charges of "visiting a disorderly house." Police wore latex gloves during the raid and one of the officers called the bar an "AIDS place." In a ruling handed down on September 19, Judge William B. Lauber of the Lima Municipal Court said the city's law against visiting a "disorderly house," defined as a place operated for the purpose of "lewdness," was unconstitutionally vague. He also ruled that the charges against the patrons violated the due process clauses of both the United States and Ohio constitutions. "This will help insure that gay men and lesbians are not harassed simply because the police do not like what they do," said Jerry Bunge, the chair of the ACLU's Gay/Lesbian Rights Project in Ohio, which represented the 41 patrons. "The bottom line of this case is that the police apparently thought a gay bar was a lewd place," Bunge said, "and this ruling will help to make sure that does not happen again." The Ohio Gay/Lesbian Rights Project was formed recently to deal with legal, educational and political issues affecting gay men and lesbians in the State of Ohio. "This sort of bar raid is something we all thought died out years ago," said Loretta Mikolaj, the project director. "It is just astonishing to find it is still going on in Ohio." In its successful motion to dismiss, the ACLU argued that patrons of gay bars are engaged in a form of expressive activity protected by the first amendment. Establishments where gay men and lesbians congregate represent much more than bars, the motion said, because gay persons rarely have had the opportunity to gather as a group in a political or social meeting place. "All around the country lesbians and gay men are increasingly the victims of government harassment," said William B. Rubenstein, the director of the national ACLU Lesbian and Gay Rights Project, which joined the Ohio case. "Just in the past few months, ACLU affiliates have handled situations as diverse as police officials in South Carolina filming the state's gay pride parade and a police raid on the Iowa Men's Festival. "The municipal court in Lima has sent out the clear message that such unwarranted harassment of gay people is not constitutionally tolerable," Rubenstein said.


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