Mike Adams

Chaz Housand, who recently graduated from UNC-Wilmington, was brutally beaten in the early morning hours of July 17. The attack happened in the downtown area of our drug-and-crime-infested little town. His friend Chet Saunders was also beaten badly. Since both are gay, they are wondering whether they have been the victims of a hate crime, which is not to be confused with a “love” crime.

Housand told the local paper that he has no idea whether anyone witnessed the beating. He also admitted that he has no idea whether anyone intervened. In fact, he says he doesn’t remember the incident and, therefore, can’t be certain about much of anything. He remembers walking out of the door of a bar and then waking up in a hospital. Since he knows nothing about the attack he asked the police what they know. As it turns out, they don’t know much about the attack either.

While neither Housand nor Saunders knows exactly what happened, both said they can think of no reason someone would attack them, other than their sexual orientation. I guess what they are saying is that they have easily discernible characteristics, which make them look “obviously gay.”

The local police, even after the arrests of three suspects, still don’t know the motive for the attack. And Chet Saunders hasn’t been of much help beyond pure speculation. In fact, he told the local paper he has “only scattered memories” of the night. In other words, these two gay fellows went out and got pretty loaded and can’t remember much. And now they want a little extra sympathy for being gay.

Generally, the story of two drunken people getting assaulted in downtown Wilmington isn’t very interesting. That’s why I initially wondered why the newspaper was covering it. And that’s why you’re wondering why I’m writing about it, too. But the mystery is solved when one reads just this one half-sentence from the local paper’s coverage of the story:

“New Hanover County District Attorney Ben David said North Carolina law regarding hate crimes does not cover attacks motivated by a victim’s sexual orientation.”

And, wouldn’t you know it, Chet Housand, the recent UNC-Wilmington graduate, was a member of various campus groups that lobbied for changes in North Carolina’s hate crimes legislation. Specifically, these groups were lobbying to add attacks motivated by sexual orientation to the list of possible hate crimes.

Mike Adams

Mike Adams is a criminology professor at the University of North Carolina Wilmington and author of Letters to a Young Progressive: How To Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand.