A gay man in Washington State was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of malicious harassment, a class C felony, after he allegedly tore a sign opposing to Referendum 74, Washington's pending ballot measure on marriage equality, off a woman's vehicle. The man was offended and allegedly told the woman he was gay before he tore the sign off, then shoved another woman who stepped in to help, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The Post-Intelligencer also cited police officials saying the man used racial slurs when he shoved the woman attempting to intervene, further compounding the potential for a hate-crime charge against the assailant.
According to Washington law, malicious harassment occurs when someone causes injury to another person, makes threats, or damages property because of the victim's perceived race, color, religion, ancestry, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, or mental, physical, or sensory handicap.
Police are still considering the possibility of bias-related charges, and told the Post-Intelligencer that protections against discrimination based on sexual orientation protect people of all orientations, not just those who are LGBT.
"With sexual orientation it doesn't say gay, it says sexual orientation," Sgt. Cindi West told the Post-Intelligencer. "So it goes both ways."
Washington United for Marriage, the coalition fighting to approve Referendum 74 and uphold marriage equality in the northwestern state, issued a statement condemning "any act of this sort, and we have been explicit with our supporters — we respect everyone, no matter where they stand on Referendum 74."
The suspect has not been charged, and is scheduled for a hearing to set his bail this afternoon.