News (USA)

Former Marshall University football player at center of W.Va. gay rights case

HUNTINGTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Supreme Court is being asked if a former Marshall University football player can be charged with violating the civil rights of two gay men he is accused of assaulting after he saw them kissing on a city street.

The Herald-Dispatch reports that the request is from Cabell County Circuit Court in the case of Steward Butler.

The 24-year-old running back has pleaded not guilty to two counts of felony civil rights violations stemming from the alleged April incident.

The lower court is asking the justices whether the state’s civil rights code includes violent actions directed at another person based solely on sexual orientation. Prosecutors contend the violation is based on the victim’s sex, not sexual orientation.

Butler is charged in the April 5 beating of two men, moments after they kissed on a Huntington street. The complaint alleges Butler witnessed the kiss, exited a passing vehicle and proceeded to shout anti-gay slurs at the two men.

Butler then struck the face of both victims with a closed fist, the complaints charge.

Huntington Police Detective Chris Sperry, said one of the victims captured the attack on video.

A tentative trial date of Jan. 26 has been scheduled.

Associated Press contributed to this report.

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