Wednesday, May 10, 2017

West Virginia Supreme Court: Sexual Orientation Not Covered By Civil Rights Law

In State of West Virginia v. Butler, (Sup. Ct. WV, May 9, 2017), the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals in a 3-2 decision held that "sex" in the state's civil rights statute does not include sexual orientation.  At issue is defendant's indictment for assaulting a same-sex couple.  The Court said in part:
In 1987, our Legislature exercised its right to define crimes when it enacted West Virginia Code § 61-6-21(b) through which it became a felony to violate a person’s civil rights by threat, intimidation and/or injury to another person or another person’s property because of specifically enumerated characteristics, including the victim’s “sex.” W.Va. Code § 61-6-21(b). In determining what is meant by the word “sex,” we are mindful that “‘[w]here the language of a statute is clear and without ambiguity the plain meaning is to be accepted without resorting to the rules of interpretation.’ 
Justice Workman joined by Justice Davis filed a dissenting opinion.