West Virginia’s Highest Court Reads LGBTQ Out of Hate Crimes Law

On May 9, 2017, West Virginia’s highest court held that the state’s hate crimes law cannot be used to prosecute somebody for an anti-gay hate crime. The prosecution urged the court to follow developing Title VII precedents and construe the word “sex” in the state’s hate crimes law as including sexual orientation, but the court refused to do so. State v. Butler, 2017 WL 1905948, 2017 W. Va. LEXIS 333 (W.V. Supreme Ct. of Appeals). Chief Justice Allen H. Loughry, II, wrote for the court. Justices Margaret L. Workman and Robin Jean Davis dissented.

In May of 2015, a grand jury issued an indictment against the defendant, Steward Butler, charging him with battery and violating the state’s hate crimes law for his attack on Casey Williams and Zackery Johnson, both of whom Butler struck in the face after he observed them kissing on a sidewalk in Huntington during the early morning hours on April 5 of that year.

For the full story, access the June 2017 issue of LGBT Law Notes.