State Supreme Court Rules Violence Towards LGBTQs Not Hate Crimes

Putin’s America: Judge Rules Violence Towards LGBTQs Not Hate Crimes

Attacking Two Gay Men for Being Gay is Not Considered a Hate Crime in West Virginia – Because They Are Gay

West Virginia’s Supreme Court has ruled that attacks on LGBTQs in the state are not to be considered hate crimes, a decision that has rightly infuriated LGBTQ rights groups. The decision was made after an appeal by the perpetrator of a brutal assault on two gay men who argued that the hate crime law he was prosecuted under didn’t apply to LGBTQ Virginians.

As The Independent reports, back in 2015, Steward Butler saw two men kissing, started to abuse them with homophobic slurs and then got out of his car and physically attacked them. After originally being indicted for battery and “violations of an individual’s civil rights,” which is how Virginia classifies hate crimes, he went to the highest court claiming LGBTQ Virginians are not covered by the states hate crimes law. The court agreed with him, meaning the victims, Casey Williams and Zackery Johnson, aren’t protected by the law because it does not clearly state that violence on LGBTQs is a hate crime.

“Applying West Virginia Code § 61-6-21(b), as it is currently written, the State cannot prosecute the defendant for an alleged criminal civil rights violation arising out of the victims’ sexual orientation”

The ruling also stated:

“The word ‘sex’ in West Virginia [law] is unambiguous and clearly imparts being male or female, and does not include ‘sexual orientation’.”

It was determined, according to Pink News, that the law only applies to “race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex” but not sexual orientation.

The ruling, however, did explain that the reason the law doesn’t apply to those in the LGBTQ community is because the state legislature, which is dominated by the GOP, keeps refusing to add sexual orientation based crimes to list of hate crimes.

“Our determination is supported by the Legislature’s repeated rejection of any attempt to add those terms to the statute in the thirty years since it first enacted the statute in 1987. The Legislature’s repeated refusal to amend [the law] to include ‘sexual orientation’ is undoubtedly indicative of its intent not to include ‘sexual orientation’ therein. In fact, it appears that since 1987, there have been at least twenty-six attempts to amend the statute to include ‘sexual orientation’, and each attempt has failed. Regardless of the reasons behind the numerous failed attempts to amend [the law], the very fact that there have been twenty-six failed attempts cannot be ignored.”

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The ruling has not gone down well with a variety of LGBTQ advocacy groups, including GLAAD, whose president, Sarah Kate Ellis, released a statement condemning the decision.

“At a time when anti-LGBTQ hate violence is on the rise, this ruling reiterates the need to advocate for LGBTQ-inclusive hate-crime laws in all states across the nation.”

As the New York Times reports, the associate legal director of the Human Rights Campaign, Robin Maril, was also less than impressed and spoke out against the ruling.

“It’s very, very troubling with the levels of violence against the [LGBTQ] community to see the West Virginia Supreme Court foreclose this option for victims and prosecutors.”

Feature image Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Chris Hearn is an ageing freelance writer located in wintery Winnipeg. He is a stay-at-home-parent, amateur stand-up comedian, and a guy with a lot of opinions, much to everyone’s dismay.