An assault that some have termed a hate crime because it happened outside a gay-friendly bar in Newport is scheduled to go to trial this week.
Steven Ard, 38, of Newport, is accused of attacking Matthew Ashcraft on the evening of June 26, following a dispute outside Woolly's on Monmouth Street. He is charged with assault and faces up to 20 years in prison.
Ashcraft, who is straight, and two gay friends were heading to the nightspot on June 26 when they saw Woolly's customer Leon Hughes being harassed outside. When Ashcraft intervened, Ard left, then returned with a baseball bat and beat him, Campbell County prosecutors said...
...Ashcraft, a 19-year-old National Guardsman in Ohio, said he saw Hughes being harassed about 10:30 p.m. June 26.
One of the assailants ran off during the fracas, but police said Ard returned to the scene after Ashcraft had seemingly defused the situation. Witnesses said Ard delivered a crushing blow across the back of Ashcraft's skull with the bat.
Other witnesses described trying to stop further violence by shielding Ashcraft's body with their own until police arrived. Ashcraft was released from University Hospital in Cincinnati July 1, where he was treated for skull fractures, cranial bleeding and a blood clot on his brain.
First off, let me give credit where credit is due: via Eschaton comments, Rorschach of No Capital picked this up on 365gay.com, and he and Tena of First Draft were discussing the topic, so I clicked through to find out what the deal was. And the truth is, the deal is so stereotypically red state-ish. This kind of crap is why Honest Abe shoulda let 'em go when he had the chance, because they're draggin' the rest of us down now. (Before you history buffs jump all over me, I know that Kentucky stayed in the Union - but they elected a secessionist state government...they just never made the jump official.)
In normal times, this would go down as just some homo bashing in Hooterville. But we all know this ain't normal times. You've got a straight National Guardsman who was hanging out with two gay friends, outside of a gay bar, getting involved in a fracas between a redneck and a queer. The straight Army guy who was defending the gay guy takes a Louisville Slugger to the base of his skull (and you just know the redneck had the bat in the jumpseat of his Dodge Ram Hemi). All of a sudden the stakes change.
This wasn't "boys will be boys". This was a group of bubbas lookin' to do a little hell raising and queer bashing on a Saturday night, and they got into a little more than they bargained for.
I've gotta ask - what would the police and prosecutorial response have been if the redneck simply bashed in the head of a queer? Would it have been the same if an alleged "straight" National Guardsman not been involved? Would the incident have made it beyond the police ledger in the Hooterville Republic Weekly?
You know the answer to that question.
So did Matt Sheppard.
Are we ever going to "grow up" as a nation?
Update, 1/4/05: Ok, you old coots. Get out your reading glasses. ;-) I acknowledged (bolded above) that Kentucky was not part of the Confederacy. I was making a point. Dammit.