Well, the West Virginia State Supreme Court has just made it easier to beat up gay people ...
Last week, in a 3-2 opinion, the West Virginia Supreme’s upheld a lower court decision that dismissed the Hate Crime charges against former Marshall University football player Steward Butler.
If you recall, in April 2015, in Huntington, West Virginia, gay couple Zackary Johnson and Casey Williams, were walking down a street when Casey pulled Zackary in for a quick kiss.
At that moment, 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 began shouting anti-gay slurs at Johnson and Williams before punching both men in the head.
Butler, left, 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 couldn’t stand to see them doing what he could not, so he jumped from a moving car to tell them how much he hated them for kissing … with his fists.
And in West Virginia, that is not Hate.
Butler was charged with battery and later for violating their civil rights; current West Virginia law prohibits civil rights violations based on race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex.
In arguments before the Court last month, Assistant Prosecutor Lauren Plymale said Cabell County Circuit Judge Paul Farrell was wrong when he dismissed the charges against Butler saying state law does not include sexual orientation as a protective class under the hate crimes statute; she argued the word sex meant sexual orientation.
But in the Supreme’s decision, authored authored by Chief Justice Allen Loughry, the Court said the word “sex” is undefined in the code and must be considered under its common and ordinary meaning.
Oh, there we go again with “common and ordinary” meaning; just another way to dismiss gay folks as less than.
In addition to the word play, the Court’s opinion said it also “cannot be ignored” that, since the Hate Crimes statute was passed in West Virginia back 1987, House and Senate members have refused to include “sexual orientation” as a protective class on at least 26 occasions.
You know, because, again, we are less than. And as such if we stop to kiss our boyfriend, girlfriend, or spouse, on any street in West Virginia and some homophobic asshat decides that the sight of such a thing turns his stomach, he can leap from a moving car and use his fists to express himself.
So, let me see if I can boil this all down to “common and ordinary” meaning for the West Virginia State Supreme Court: if Steward Butler had jumped from a car to beat up a straight couple on a street corner for no reason other than a public display of affection [PDA], that could be considered a hateful thing to do, but if Butler jumps from a car to bash two gay men for the same PDA that’s hate.
Common, ordinary hate; and you’ve just given it a pass.