Sunday, May 14, 2017
In a 3-2 decision Tuesday, the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that anti-gay assaults are not protected under the state's hate crime law, according to court documents obtained by ABC News. The decision emerged from the State of West Virginia vs. Steward Butler case, which involves an April 2015 incident during which Butler allegedly directed homophobic slurs at two men he saw kissing on the sidewalk while at a stoplight before getting out of his car and striking both victims in the face with his fist, according to court documents. On May 21, 2015, a Cabell County grand jury issued an indictment against Butler, charging him with battery and violations of an individual's civil rights under West Virginia law. Butler challenged those indictments and the applicability of the law to his actions.
According to the court, under West Virginia law it is unlawful to threaten, injure, intimidate or oppress any individual because of their race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, political affiliation or sex. However, West Virginia's Supreme Court agreed that the word "sex" has ambiguous meaning and it is unclear if the law protects individuals based on sexual orientation.
"A review of similar laws from other states demonstrated that 'there are two distinct categories of potential discrimination: discrimination based on sex and discrimination based on sexual orientation,'" the court decision states. "West Virginia legislature could have included sexual orientation as an area of protection ... [as] [n]umerous other states have done."
Since 1987, there have been at least 26 attempts to amend the statute in West Virginia to include sexual orientation but each of those attempts failed.
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