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Long Beach Cops Accused Of Targeting Gay Men In Class-Action Suit

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At the Long Beach Lesbian & Gay Pride Celebration (Photo by Calvin Fleming via the LAist Featured Photos pool on Flickr)
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In April, 50-year-old Rory Moroney was arrested at Long Beach's Recreation Park. One officer involved—an undercover cop who posed as an amorous stranger— claimed that Moroney was masturbating and exposing himself in public. Moroney, on the other hand, said that he was simply responding to the cop's advances.

Moroney was charged with one count of misdemeanor indecent exposure and one count of lewd conduct. If convicted he would have had to register as a sex offender for life. The judge acquitted him of all charges, however, and now, Bruce Nickerson, Moroney's attorney, has filed a federal class-action lawsuit against the City of Long Beach, reports the L.A. Times. Nickerson says that hundreds of gay men were possibly targeted in similar sting operations.

In the initial case involving Moroney, the judge said that the Long Beach Police Department's tactics were discriminatory because they specifically targeted men looking for sex with other men. According to the Times, court documents show that at least two dozen men were arrested in similar scenarios in 2013 and 2014.

Moroney is named as the lead plaintiff in the class-action lawsuit. Though, as Nickerson states in the suit, the plaintiff class could grow to include "hundreds of men." The suit alleges that the LBDP's actions violated the 4th amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the 14th amendment, which provides equal protection under the law. In Moroney's initial trial, Nickerson also argued that his client's arrest was invalid, because "lewd conduct" was a crime only if the perpetrator knew that his actions would offend another person present, reports the Long Beach Press-Telegram.

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The LBPD's sting operations come as a bit of a surprise, especially when you consider that the city's mayor—Robert Garcia—is openly gay.

Also, The Advocate has consistently named Long Beach as one of America's "gayest cities." Here's an excerpt from The Advocate's 2014 description of the city:

Good California cuisine, a bunch of gay bars and restaurants, marine life at the Aquarium, beaches, one of the country's biggest Pride events, and a relaxed atmosphere all conspire to make Long Beach a surprisingly gay city.