Two men arrested for having sex aboard a cruise ship that had docked on the Caribbean island of Dominica pleaded guilty Thursday (22 March) to indecent exposure.
John Robert Hart, 41, and Dennis Jay Mayer, 43, both of Palm Springs, CA, were on a Celebrity Summit cruise ship when they were arrested by an officer on board after people on the dock saw them having intimate relations. Sex between two men is illegal on the island.
They had initially also been arrested on suspicion of the local equivalent of sodomy but ultimately were only charged with indecent exposure.
'We humbly apologize to the people of Dominica,' both men said during a 30-minute hearing in the capital of Roseau, according to the Associated Press.
Bernadette Lambert, an attorney representing Hart and Mayer, said they 'threw caution to the wind.'
'They were struck by the beautiful mountains, the clean and clear fresh air and were having a few cocktails,' she told the court.
The men were released and taken to the airport after paying an approximately $900 fine. They were also called 'rogues and vagabonds' by the judge in the case.
The cruise, organized by West Hollywood-based Atlantis Events, continued on to St. Barts Thursday without Hart and Mayer. It had arrived in Dominica on Wednesday morning from Puerto Rico.
Atlantic Events President Rich Campbell, whose company that specializes in gay travel, was aboard the ship and says the company would 'happily return' to Dominica despite the arrest of the two passengers.
'Many countries and municipalities that gay men visit and live in have antiquated laws on their books,' he said to the Miami Herald. 'These statutes don't pose a concern to us in planning a tourist visit. The guests' actions were unfortunate but minor in this case and have no bearing on our overall guest experience.'
But others in the LGBT community are concerned about such statutes.
L.A. Gay & Lesbian Center Chief Public Affairs Officer Jim Key tells Gay Star News: 'The infuriating reality for LGBT travelers is that there are many places with anti-LGBT laws or where LGBT people are frequently the targets of violent attacks, including Caribbean islands such as Dominica and Jamaica. We encourage travelers to not only understand the laws and customs of the countries they’re visiting but to consider whether they want to spend tourist dollars in places that persecute LGBT people.'
Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, a staff attorney for Lambda Legal, said in an interview with GSN Thursday that anti-sodomy laws like those in Dominica do create an unwelcoming environment for the LGBT community.
'Obviously the passengers are American and live in US, but the treatment of these two passengers suggests that there is some hostility,' the attorney said. 'This type of incident fuels anti-LGBT sentiment and prejudice and obviously that's concerning. Many countries in the Caribbean are not welcoming to the LGBT community.'