Tue, Jan 15, 2013
According to The Advertiser, a Lafayette man said he and three friends were verbally and physically attacked Sunday in a movie theater because they’re gay .
The man who allegedly attacked them, Joseph W. Menard Jr., 37, of the 500 block of Wiltz Street in Rayne, was arrested on two counts of simple battery, according to police reports.
Walt Jamison, 23, said he and his partner and two gay friends met at The Grand on Johnston Street in Lafayette on Sunday to see a Barbra Streisand movie, “Guilt Trip.” The men took their seats during the previews, Jamison said, and almost immediately a man in the row behind them said, “Oh great,” and called them a derogatory name aimed at their sexual preference.
When one of the four said, “Excuse me?” Menard “stood up and leaned over us and started screaming hate slurs peppered with profanities,” in front of his own child and wife, Jamison said.
A woman about three rows in front stood and asked Menard to stop because she had children with her, but, according to Jamison, Menard insulted her and told her to sit down.
Menard “sat down and stood back up and popped my partner in the back of the head,” said Jamison, adding that he was also struck by Menard.
Before the police arrived, Menard and his family left The Grand in their SUV. Police sued them and arrested Menard on the simple battery charges.
In the affidavit for his arrest, the Lafayette police officers wrote that the verbal altercation was about their “sexual preference.” Menard’s wife, Carissa Lynn Menard, 31, of Rayne, was charged with resisting arrest, according to police reports.
Jamison said one of his friends asked the police officers why Joseph Menard wasn’t being charged with a hate crime, but he did not get a direct response. He added that the police officers and theater personnel were respectful toward them throughout the incident.
Cpl. Paul Mouton, the public information officer for the Lafayette Police Department, said Monday he wasn’t sure why the officers did not charge Menard with a hate crime. He said that since it is in the police report, the prosecutor and judge may take it into account.
Louisiana Revised Statute 14:107.2 addresses hate crimes. It states that it is unlawful to select a victim of various crimes, including battery and aggravated battery, on the basis of, among other things, sexual orientation.
Battery is defined in Louisiana Revised Statute 14:33 as “the intentional use of force or violence upon the person of another.” Jamison said he has never been subjected to verbal or physical abuse because of his sexual orientation and was surprised that it happened in a movie theater on a Sunday afternoon in Lafayette, a city that he said he believes is accepting of peoples’ differences.
Jamison said he doesn’t want anyone to think that people have “the right or the ability” to verbally or physically attack another person “because of the way someone looks.”