SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — A Southern Californian said Friday that he and his partner were taunted, humiliated and subjected to inhumane treatment when they were arrested and jailed after being escorted off a gay cruise in the Caribbean this week.
Dennis Jay Mayer, 53, told The Associated Press that he has no doubt they were arrested in Dominica because they were gay. Police said it was because they were seen having sex in public on the balcony of their ship cabin. He said they were not having sex, but were "partially clothed."
Mayer, a retired deputy sheriff, spoke to the AP in San Juan, where he and his partner of 17 years, John Robert Hart, arrived after being released following their guilty plea to indecent exposure.
"The total experience was horrendous," he said. "They told us that they did not like us, that they did not like gay people."
Dominica is among several Caribbean islands that have laws prohibiting sex between men.
The trouble began shortly after the cruise ship Celebrity Summit docked Wednesday morning at Dominica in the eastern Caribbean. Mayer and Hart were in their room when they got a call from a cruise ship official.
"We were summoned that the captain wished to speak to us," Mayer said. "We were caught off guard."
Three cruise ship officials and six Dominica police officers were waiting for them. After police interviewed both men separately, the assistant captain spoke, Mayer said.
"At this time, we are going to eject you from the ship. We have zero tolerance toward your behavior," Mayer recalled him saying.
Police drove them to their headquarters, where they sat on a bench for nearly two hours without legal representation despite repeated requests, Mayer said.
After police took pictures and obtained fingerprints, a high-ranking officer began a nearly four-hour interrogation.
"He said: 'You're being arrested for being gay. We're arresting you for the crime of buggery,'" Mayer said. "He said that other people said that we were engaging in homosexual sex. He repeated that several times. I told him I didn't know why they would say that. I wasn't doing that."
Mayer said he was naked in his cabin and nearly naked on the balcony. "I was less partially clothed than I should have been."
During the interrogation, the police official threatened to take them to a clinic and have them medically examined for proof of homosexual activity, Mayer said.
"He said, you know, we're looking for specific things, fluids, bruising, things of that nature," Mayer said.
After making the threat, the official left the room, then came back saying they had a right to refuse the test, Mayer said.
The two men were charged with indecent exposure and put in a five-by-eight-foot cell to await an appearance before a magistrate.
"The treatment was inhumane," Mayer said. "We were detained for approximately 26 hours, and 19 of those locked in a cement cell, which had no running water, no toilet, no lights. It stunk of feces and urine. It was infested with cockroaches, ants and bugs."
Mayer said police brought in government officials to look at them.
"They paraded many people by to look in on us as if we were some type of animal, which was quite humiliating," he said. "People got great joy in the pleasure of taunting us."
On Thursday morning, police drove them to the courthouse in the capital of Roseau, passing through an angry crowd, Mayer said.
"They were chanting and banging on the police vehicle. They were screaming things," he said. "I've never seen anything like this in my life, other than in movies. Both my partner and I really feared for our safety."
Police drove around the block twice to avoid the crowd and journalists. Officers formed a barricade with their bodies and urged Mayer and his partner to run into the courthouse and not stop.
"It was very frightening," Mayer said.
Once in the courtroom, Chief Magistrate Evaline Baptiste ordered the men to pay a nearly $900 fine after they pleaded guilty to indecent exposure. He called the two men "rogues and vagabonds."
Police then drove them to the airport, Mayer said.
He said he would never return to Dominica.
"I would not spend my money in a country that does not support gay behavior," he said. "Shame on us for not doing our research."
However, Colin Robinson, executive director of a Trinidad-based gay rights group, warned against labeling the entire Caribbean as homophobic. He said a heterosexual couple in the same situation would have been charged as well.
"Things are not as bleak as the journalists in the U.S. like to paint the Caribbean as being," he said.