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Judge clears men after they're cited for holding hands

Two men cited for holding hands in a parked car were cleared by a judge, but the American Civil Liberties Union said Thursday it is appalled that the arrest even occurred. "It's entirely offensive. It would be offensive to any civilized person that they're (police) doing this," said Jim Rogers, ACLU coordinator for southwestern Ohio.

Hamilton County Municipal Judge Joseph Luebbers heard legal argument and testimony Wednesday before dismissing the charges against Commedore C. Canyon, 29, of Cincinnati, and John K. Harden, 28, of Ludlow, Ky.

"I see this as a direct violation of freedom of association, for two individuals not to be able to sit and talk," Rogers said. "If these two gentlemen hadn't had the nerve to resist this prosecution, this kind of harassment might have continued to take place."

"I'm just glad it's over, because we didn't do anything wrong," Canyon said Wednesday.

Defense attorney Catherine Adams argued that the charge _ disorderly conduct for creating a physically offensive condition _ was unconstitutional. She said it fails to specify what sort of conduct society considers acceptable or illegal.

Police Officer Marty Polk found the men holding hands in a parked car Sept. 27 in Eden Park.

The men said they had known each other six years, and Canyon was consoling Harden over a death in his family when they were cited. The two are homosexuals but are not romantically involved, said lawyer Scott Knox, an associate of Adams.

Polk testified that the fact both were men did not make the act offensive _ he said the situation would have been as offensive had it involved a man and a woman.

Adams said the arrest came three days after activists protested at the Hamilton County Courthouse as local art museum director Dennis Barrie went on trial on charges of displaying obscene photographs by the late Robert Mapplethorpe. Barrie and the museum were acquitted of all charges.

"I really believe that this (citations) happened because of the atmosphere generated by the Mapplethorpe case and the Mapplethorpe demonstration," Adams said.

Ed Ammann, assistant police chief, denied the allegation Thursday, saying police enforce laws, not harass homosexuals.

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