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Man Charged In Kentucky Attack Challenges Hate Crimes Law

StopHateHAnthony Ray Jenkins, one of the Kentucky men accused in the 2011 beating of a gay man named Kevin Pennington, has filed a claim saying he cannot be charged under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act because the federal government "arbitrarily" created a protected population.

"Providing greater protection for victims of crime based on sexual orientation than other crime victims is advancing the arbitrarily creation of classes of individuals," said Jenkins' attorney Willis Coffey. This trial is the first time someone is being charged under the hate crime law's sexual orientation protections.

A decision on the matter would set a precedent that either cements the law or calls it into question, leading to a potential judicial showdown like the one currently brewing around marriage equality.

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  1. What about religion? Doesn't it do the same for that? I wonder if he wants all protections gone or just lgbt ones

    Posted by: GeorgeM | Jul 26, 2012 11:55:32 AM

  2. Regardless of the outcome, this will not go well for the guy. The only arbitrary class protected under the hate crimes law is "religion" and quite frankly, one could just as easily claim that this is a hate crime based on one's known or perceived religious beliefs. Does he really want to take that path?

    Posted by: The Realist | Jul 26, 2012 12:05:34 PM

  3. The attorney for Anthony Ray Jenkins is Willis Coffey, a locally-prominent attorney who has been an activist for conservative causes in Kentucky. He also is an evangelical christian and tends toward Christian Dominionism.

    This lawsuit has been long overdue and it should be no surprise that it has been filed.

    Several conservative christian legal advocacy groups such as the ACLJ, Alliance Defense Fund and The Rutherford Institute have all been very critical of "hate crimes" legislation ever since the tragedy of Matthew Shepard inspired the passage of several "hate crimes" legislation.

    All claim that it infringes on the rights of Christians to free speech and also creates a "special class" of people that is given legal protection that other citizens do not have.

    The question is whether or not this lawsuit has "legs". If it survives initial challenges, it may just be a legal "Trojan horse" that could overturn much legislation that has been enacted over the last decade or so that gives prosecutors a tool to prosecute crimes of violence against LGBT when such violence can be proven to have been committed solely because of the victim's sexual orientation.

    This could be a dangerous lawsuit and deserves keeping an eye on it.

    Posted by: jamal49 | Jul 26, 2012 12:05:52 PM

  4. The Supreme Court has already unanimously ruled that penalty-enhancement hate crime laws are constitutional (Wisconsin v. Mitchell) -- you're making it sound like there's some big open legal question here, when there really isn't.

    Posted by: um k | Jul 26, 2012 12:06:07 PM

  5. @ UM K :

    You make a good point for keeping SCOTUS out of the hands of Romney appointed fascists.
    Let Scalia Alito Thomas rot on the vine.

    Posted by: JackFknTwist | Jul 26, 2012 12:15:28 PM

  6. Actually, Scalia, Thomas and Rhenquist all agreed that the hate crime law was constitutional back in 1993.

    Posted by: um k | Jul 26, 2012 12:18:43 PM


    Scalia and Thomas were both part of that unanimous decision, but your point is very valid.

    Posted by: The Realist | Jul 26, 2012 12:21:59 PM

  8. EVERYONE has a sexual orientation (whether gay, straight or bi), an ethnic background, a religious classification (even if it is "non-affiliated") and a gender, etc., so since 100% of people are covered, how can anyone argue that a"special class" of people have been singled out?

    Posted by: Gregv | Jul 26, 2012 12:26:39 PM

  9. This lawsuit only serves to prove why the law, and special protections for GLBT people, are needed!

    Posted by: TampaZeke | Jul 26, 2012 12:28:39 PM

  10. So according to Coffey, creating or recognizing any kind of classification is automatically problematic... Is he trying to overturn the entire body of equal protection jurisprudence in one fell swoop?!?

    Posted by: Reilly | Jul 26, 2012 12:35:23 PM

  11. Coffey's just throwing something at the wall, hoping it sticks. That's the way it's done.

    Posted by: Jack M | Jul 26, 2012 12:38:53 PM

  12. GregV is right - the law covers everyone. Further, it doesn't matter whether the victim was actually gay/Christian/disabled/Asian/etc. -- it matters only whether the attacker was motivated by hatred of the particular group.

    Posted by: Jon | Jul 26, 2012 1:06:05 PM

  13. I view this as a good thing. If it reaches the Supreme Court then we will know for sure one way or the other. I'm not a lawyer so I can't say. Like the article says, it will cement the position if it's upheld.

    Posted by: Tony | Jul 26, 2012 3:26:43 PM

  14. Since it's well documented that hate crimes against gay people happen frequently and are particularly violent, there is nothing "arbitrary" about the classification. Furthermore, unless they're arguing that hate crimes legislation should be abolished altogether, then they can't cherry pick only the protected classes they like--such as religion--and expect to make a rational case. If the Supreme Court has already ruled on hate crimes laws, I don't see how selectiong out sexual orientation as arbitrary could possibly fly in any court. Couldn't get more arbitrary than religion.

    Posted by: Ernie | Jul 26, 2012 5:07:44 PM

  15. it's funny bc i always thought gay rights were religious rights as well as freedom of speech rights all balled into one. we don't need to search beyond the first ammendment even in the marriage cases for our rights written plain as day. our marriages are speech,business and religious/non-religious depending on the couple so eat it conservadogs!!!

    Posted by: alexander | Jul 26, 2012 6:16:03 PM

  16. Hate crimes are just that, how anybody, qualified & practiced in law, can say that maliciously killing anybody for gender, sexuality or creed somehow can be allowed because it's prejudiced against the person who committed the act?? OMG

    Posted by: Gordon | Jul 26, 2012 7:55:31 PM

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