Gay Men Say Man Assaulted Them at Movie Theater
A group of young gay men from Lafayette, La., say they were verbally and physically assaulted in a movie theater because of their sexual orientation, the city's newspaper the Advertiser reports.
On Sunday, the men went to see the new comedy starring Barbara Streisand, "Guilt Trip," but were attacked during the movie's previews. Walt Jamison, 23, said when he, his partner and two of his openly gay friends sat down, a man sitting in the row behind them said, "Oh great," and began to spew anti-gay rhetoric.
One of the friends confronted Joseph Menard Jr., 37. When he asked, "Excuse me?" in a non-threatening tone, Menard "stood up and leaned over us and started screaming hate slurs peppered with profanities," Jamison told the newspaper. Jamison went on to say that Menard then "sat down and stood back up and popped my partner in the back of the head," and that Menard, who was with his wife and child, also struck Jamison.
Menard and his family then left the theater but Layette police tracked them down and arrested Menard on simple battery charges. According to the affidavit for his arrest, the local authorities noted the verbal alteration was about the men's "sexual preference." Menard's wife, Carissa Lynn Menard, 31, was charged with resisting arrest.
One of Jamison's friends asked police why Menard wasn't being charged with a hate crime but the officer could not give a response. Louisiana is one of the few southern states that has hate crime laws that protect individuals based on sexual orientation. (It does not cover gender identity.)
A police spokesman admitted that he wasn't sure why Menard was not charged with a hate crime but added that the anti-gay slurs were written in the police report.
""We are shocked and appalled that the incident occurred," Jamison told EDGE.
"Differences between people do not provide reasons or excuses for violent action of any kind."
He went to mention that the response to the incident has "been overwhelmingly positive. Not a single publicly available Facebook, or other social media, post or comment, that I have seen, has defended Menard's actions," Jamison said.
He added that he has not experienced any repercussions from Menard's friends or family. Still, he told EDGE that he and his partner are preparing themselves; he and said they bought their "first cans of mace and are looking into some self-defense lessons. We don't expect any negative backlash, based on the outpouring of love, support, and solidarity."
Jamison told EDGE that he has sought the advice of his father, a lawyer, and his father's colleagues' advice on the case.