July 18, 2008— -- People are (or will be) having sex all around America today. But that's nobody's business. Sex is a private matter, right? Except that local authorities sometimes say it is their business.
At a public park in Columbus, Ohio, a topless woman asked a man to expose himself. The park appeared empty to him, but police were actually videotaping him from an unmarked car nearby as part of a sting operation. Once he exposed himself, police officers drove up and arrested him, not her. Columbus law says being topless is OK, even if you're female.
Sex in parks is a long tradition. Movies show how teens have always used parks and the backseats of cars as places to fool around. And if a cop catches them, they'll often tell the kids to put their clothes back on and move along.
But that's not how some local authorities react in the real world.
Authorities in Johnson City, Tenn., responded to complaints that gay men were using a local park for sex by setting up a sting operation. Ken Giles, 54, was one of the men they arrested, but he says he simply stepped off the trail to go to the bathroom. "I just thought I was in trouble for urinating in public," he said.
Police allege that Giles exposed himself to an undercover officer. They charged him with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct but did more than just arrest him. Before Giles and the other men were convicted, police released the names, photos and addresses of everyone who had been arrested.
On his way to court, Giles saw his picture in the newspaper and front page headlines. "I was horrified," he said.
He says he was told to plead guilty and did so to avoid a harsher punishment that would have come had Giles pled innocent and then been found guilty. Afterward, his employer fired him.
"When I lost my job over it my wife was so upset and distraught and distressed that she had a major heart attack," said Giles, whose wife died shortly after ABC News interviewed him.
"Right now, it's just about destroyed my life."
Another man, also named by the police, committed suicide.
Sex therapist Marty Klein said this is part of America's "War on Sex".
"Let's not just simply arrest them, let's humiliate them," he said. "Let's drag them through the mud. And that will make people think twice about ever doing that sort of thing again."