Main | Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Las Vegas Taxi Cops Told To Treat Gays Like They Have Infectious Diseases

KLAS-TV reports that the Las Vegas Taxi Authority, which has the power to make arrests, has a policy requiring its officers to don gear to protect themselves against infectious diseases whenever arresting gay people.
Although TA officers primarily focus on the taxi industry, like other peace officers, they have a lot of discretion, which is why written policies about enforcement priorities are so important, and making this unusual policy all the more disturbing. The heading is Exposure to Communicable Diseases, spelling out how the TA can protect its employees and the public from those suspected of having infections. And who are those people? According to the TA, high-risk groups include homosexuals, I.V. drug users and prostitutes. Former TA Officer Scott Lewis says he was floored when he read the policy manual given to him by his boss at the TA. "It took my breath away to read that," he said. "It lumps in homosexuals and gays with drug users and prostitutes. Drug users and prostitutes as we know are criminals." "My question is, what is a homosexual? How can you tell? Would you ask them, ‘Are you homosexual?' and then stop, as it says, for your personal protective equipment," said Lewis. Nevada Equal Rights Commissioner and longtime gay rights activist Lee Plotkin regards the policy as a relic of the past -- an anachronism -- especially in light of the expensive marketing campaign run by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to attract free-spending gay and lesbian tourists to Las Vegas. Plotkin says the idea that a state agency views such visitors as disease risks is abhorrent. "It is medically, politically and socially unacceptable now," he said. "Does this mean Siegfried and Roy couldn't have gotten a cab to the Mirage. Does this mean Elton John couldn't get a cab to Caesars Palace? It's just ridiculous. I hope the TA takes the appropriate action."
Although the Las Vegas Taxi Authority reportedly ended its rules about gays three years ago, policy manuals given new employees continue to contain the offending instructions (PDF). Watch the KLAS report at their site.

(Tipped by JMG reader David)

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