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Hate crime or not at "Guilt Trip"?

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 men went to see the Barbara Streisand film, "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 the friend asked, "Excuse me?" in a non-threatening tone, Menard "stood up and leaned over us and started screaming hate slurs peppered with profanities," Jamison said. 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. 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.


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