Wilmington Star News Online broke a story late last night with the headline, “Victim believes his sexual orientation might have led to attack.” Chaz Housand and Chet Saunders claim that their sexual orientation enraged bullies enough to beat them unconscious and leave them severely hurt in downtown Wilmington early Friday morning, around 2 a.m.
Can these victims actually claim that sexual orientation elicited the violence?
Let’s review the facts of the case; both victims left a bar on Front Street around closing time, the victims do not remember the attack, the victims never saw their attackers and do not know the defendants (who are currently in custody). Police say that they do not know the reason for the attack and the on-duty detective reminds, “At 2 a.m., when people are getting out of bars, that is the most volatile time to be downtown.”
Housand and Saunders’ claim that their sexual orientation caused the violence cannot be confirmed by both the police and the victims, so why would Wilmington Star News run a headline like this?
The story highlights the ongoing debate of Hate Crime legislation argued in Washington and here in Raleigh. North Carolina’s hate crime laws do not currently cover attacks that could have been motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation.
The U.S. Senate approved a bill earlier this month that will expand federal hate crimes to include those motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In April, the U.S. House approved a similar bill and President Obama has promised to sign the hate crime legislation if it reaches his desk this session.
According to the American Psychological Association, sexual orientation is defined as an “enduring pattern of emotional, romantic, and/or sexual attractions to men, women, or both sexes… it refers to a person’s sense of identity based on those attractions and membership in a community of others who share those attractions.”
The application of a sexual orientation nondiscrimination class is nearly impossible to discern. In this case, neither the victim nor the police can prove that the perpetrators attacked the victims on the basis of sexual orientation. The fact that the victims did not have a relationship with their attackers even furthers the point.
Claiming that sexual orientation caused the violence is to manipulate the law and force it to include a protection of a person’s identity that cannot be concretely known or proven. Violence, like this, is offensive and inexcusable but blaming sexual orientation is not credible.