In the wake of the mass shooting at Pulse nightclub in Orlando last week, this story has me quite riled up … here’s the gist of what happened — from my original blog post HERE:
In April 2015, in Huntington, West Virginia, Zackary Johnson and Casey Williams, after visiting friends, were walking back to their hotel when Casey pulled Zackary in for a quick kiss on the street.
At that moment, Marshall University football running back Steward Butler happened to be riding by in a car with friends and became so enraged at the sight of two men kissing that he leapt from the automobile and being shouting anti-gay slurs at the couple before punching both men in the head.
After his arrest, Butler claimed the confrontation was in self-defense, though it’s unclear how he was defending himself against two men kissing … unless he wanted to kiss one of them? Perhaps he’s one of those self-loathing closeted homosexuals and when he saw two men, in love, kissing on the street, he decided he couldn’t stand to see them doing that when he couldn’t, so he jumped from a moving car to tell them how much he hated them for kissing … with his fists.
Whatever his reasons … Butler was charged with two counts of misdemeanor battery, and was dismissed from the Marshall University football team. Good, right? Not so fast …
Butler, left, no longer faces any charges because West Virginia, like 19 other states, does not have a hate crime law that protects people targeted specifically because of their sexual orientation; and while the US Department of Justice is weighing its options in the case, some observers say it may not fit the federal definition of a hate crime.
In his decision in the case, Cabell County Circuit Court Judge Paul Farrell said West Virginia civil rights law protects people based on sex, not sexual orientation, and said he would drop the hate crime charges against Butler in 60 days, giving prosecutors time to appeal.
Farrell’s ruling leaves two options for prosecutors: hope for a favorable appeal with the state Supreme Court, or — if they lose — lobby for changes to state law with a Legislature that typically hasn’t added LGBT protections.
Now, I get it that Steward Butler physically assaulted two men because they were gay — which, let’s be queer, is a Hate Crime — and I get that West Virginia is one of those backwoods states that doesn’t believe gay Americans can be the victims of hate just for being gay but … isn’t this exactly why we need a federal law, superseding, overriding, and nullifying, every single state law about what constitutes a Hate Crime because, and I will say this again …
If I am walking down the street with Carlos and you come up and rob me and beat me and steal my wallet, that’s hateful, but …
If I am walking down the street with Carlos and you come up and rob me and beat me because I’m gay, that’s hate.
Spot the difference.
Hopefully, in light of what happened in Orlando, the prosecutors will be able to win on appeal and charge Butler with a Hate Crime, but if not, if that animal gets no jail, and no punishment for physically assaulting two men, let’s hope this case, and Orlando, are enough to move West Virginia lawmakers to add sexual orientation to their Hate Crimes statutes.
Hate is hate, no matter who the target.