An 81-year-old gay man with Parkinson’s disease spent 22 months in jail for having sex in his nursing home before the charges were finally dropped by prosecutors. He is confined to a wheelchair.
While nursing home staff say he forced himself on two other men at the facility, Leroy Martin asserts it was consensual – and one of the men agrees. The other man has since died.
The case highlights the difficulties LGBTQ seniors face as they age. LGBTQ elders are more likely to need help from social services as they get older, partly because they are less likely to have children and more likely to have no relationship with their families of origin. Many LGBTQ people get help from people who aren’t related or married to them, which means that the caregivers have limited legal power to help if they’re not a designated health care proxy.
Martin’s lawyer, civil rights attorney J. Conor Corcoran, says that if the senior were straight, the staff would have overlooked the sexual activity. Because it was between two men, he asserts, the home decided to call the police.
A staff member found Martin giving oral sex to a 43-year-old resident at Southampton Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. The younger man told police it was consensual, despite staff’s assertions that he wasn’t able to give consent due to a brain injury.
The man, however, told officers that he had consented “because I hadn’t been with a woman in 21 years.”
The other man said he woke up to find Martin performing oral sex on him. He said the senior, his roommate at the facility, had also repeatedly groped him. He told police that he was straight and didn’t want anyone to find out because he was ashamed of getting oral sex from a man. He said staff at the facility forced him to speak to the police.
“They were hell-bent on falsely painting Mr. Martin as a sexual predator, and with a pink brush, to boot,” Corcoran said. “The nursing home lied to the state police that the men with whom Mr. Martin had sex were incapable of consent.”
Pennsylvania State Police charged the Navy veteran with involuntary deviant sexual intercourse and indecent assault. He was held in prison without his medication, Corcoran added.
As thousands of staff and prisoners contracted COVID in the state, it was other inmates who looked after Martin, he says.
“There’s some real angels in the Cumberland County jail who looked after him.”
Prosecutors will willing to drop the charges up to a year before he was finally released, Corcoran said, but the nursing home wouldn’t accept him back and other facilities in the rural area wouldn’t either.
Martin has filed a lawsuit alleging false arrest, emotional distress, and negligence by the nursing home staff. He seeks unspecified damages.
“The Plaintiff’s homosexuality was outrageously, egregiously… and unlawfully treated as a crime by the Defendants herein,” the complaint reads.
“This was consensual with both men,“ Corcoran said. “If it had been an Adam and Eve story instead of Adam and Steve, they wouldn’t even have called the police.”