Friday, August 20, 1999

Canadian Press

p. A30.

Club sex is private, gay activists say

TORONTO — A police crackdown on lurid sex at a Toronto gay bar has activists calling on legislators to rule once and for all on what constitutes private and public sex.

Most agree what goes on in the bedroom is no one else's business. But some courts have also considered the back seat of a car to be private, while others have not, said lawyer Benson Cowan.

"There's no clear definition," he said at a news conference held yesterday to condemn recent charges against 18 men accused of indecency at a notorious Toronto gay club.

Gay activist George Hislop demanded the charges be dropped and similar raids against bars stopped: "Toronto police went on a fishing expedition; they went looking for trouble, I believe they are vindictive. The people who were present were not intending to commit a crime."

The arrests were made at the Bijou Theatre, a gay pornography bar that hosted anonymous oral-sex orgies before it closed last month. Supporters say the bar is a private place. Police argue it's public.

But University of Toronto law professor Bernard Dickens says it's unlikely the courts will step in, since they are often reluctant to make broad rulings.

"To ask the court to be definitive is to ask the court to get involved with facts not directly in front of them," he said.

Courts have ruled sex between two people is private. But when a third person is involved, they generally say people lose the right to privacy.

— CP

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