A man charged with kidnapping, assault and violating a hate crime law in an attack on a gay man filed a motion in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky [official website] on Wednesday challenging the validity of the hate crime law under which he is being prosecuted. Anthony Ray Jenkins, 20, is charged with a violation of the sexual orientation section of the 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act [S 909 text]. He and his cousin, David Jason Jenkins, 37, allegedly assaulted a gay man at Kingdom Come State Park in April 2011, for which the two young women who were present have pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting. The guilty pleas were the first convictions under the sexual orientation section of the Act, and the Jenkins case is the first federal case charging a violation of that section. Jenkins claims Congress unconstitutionally created a class of individuals based on sexual orientation who under the Act receive preferential treatment [AP report] in the form of greater protections than are afforded other crime victims. Both men have pleaded not guilty to all charges. They face life in prison if convicted.
Earlier this month Chile enacted a hate crime law [JURIST report] following the March beating death of a young gay man in a Santiago park. Last month the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) [advocacy website] reported that incidents of hate-based murders against LGBT individuals in the US increased in 2011 [JURIST report]. The annual report, entitled "Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-affected Communities in the U.S. in 2011," found that 30 LGBT individuals were killed in 2011 in hate-based murders, the highest number that the NCAVP has recorded. The number of murders against LGBT people has increased in each of the past three years. President Barack Obama signed [JURIST report] the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law in October 2009.