Earlier this week, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that the state’s hate crime law doesn’t cover anti-LGBTQ assaults or any crime committed on based on sexual orientation. The 3 to 2 decision is a major setback in the fight by civil rights advocates to convince W.V. courts that laws that prohibit violence or discrimination due to sex also protect LGBTQ folks.
The crime that led to West Virginia v. Butler involved a clear case of anti-LGBTQ bias and outright hate. In 2015, Steward Butler, a then Marshall University football player, attacked two men for kissing in public after screaming LGBTQ slurs. Prosecutors for the case ultimately charged Butler with a hate crime, as well as assault and battery, though West Virginia’s hate crime statute doesn’t specifically include gender expression or sexual orientation.
It does, however, prohibit violence committed “because of sex,” and prosecutors argued that Butler’s attack fell under this wording of the law because it was motivated by sex and gender stereotyping. Butler (allegedly, yeah, yeah yeah) beat each of the victims for intimately or romantically associating with a person of the same gender or sex. One would assume that if either person were of a different sex they wouldn’t have been assaulted.
So, you may be thinking, what *does* qualify as a hate crime in West Virginia (aka the state that brought us pepperoni rolls and Steve Harvey)? According to the West Virginia legislature;
“(a) All persons within the boundaries of the state of West Virginia have the right to be free from any violence, or intimidation by threat of violence, committed against their persons or property because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.”
“Justice Margaret Workman, writing the dissent for herself and Justice Robin Davis, tries mightily to connect dots in a way that expands the law to include sexual orientation. She argues that the two victims were attacked because of their sex. “Attacking a male and shouting homophobic slurs because he is kissing a man most certainly qualifies as committing an act ‘because of sex’.”
“If a Caucasian man is fired because he is married to an African-American woman, has he been discriminated against because of his race? Yes, but not simply because of the hue of his skin; rather, the act was committed because he was perceived to be behaving outside the social expectation of how a Caucasian man should behave with an African American woman. But for his race, he would not have been fired.”
Feature image: www.courtswv.gov