Apparently It’s OK to Attack Gays if You Go to Church, Do Charity Work

Last May, John Meloche, then 27, was charged with public incitement of hatred, assault causing bodily harm, assault, assaulting a police officer, and resisting arrest following an incident at a Pizza Pizza in Windsor, Ontario. Meloche was part of a group of three men who, waiting in line, began making anti-gay remarks about the two men in line behind them: Justin Jarecki and Denton Callender, both openly gay. At the trial, Meloche denied saying “I hate fags” (as several witnesses said he said), but admitted saying, “I’m not a homo, this homo needs to get off my ass.” When Callender told Meloche’s group that they should be ashamed of the way they were speaking, Meloche punched both of them in the face, breaking several of Jarecki’s bones (he later needed reconstructive surgery). After restaurant employees called the police, Meloche ran away and then fought with the officer who had been following him on foot. He was arrested after two other officers arrived.

At his trial, however, Meloche was only found guilty of assault causing bodily harm. On the stand, he said that he had feared for his safety, which to me sounds a lot like he’s trying to claim the gay panic defence without actually claiming the gay panic defence. At the time, the Windsor Star reported that:

“In addition to calling Jarecki frail and timid, [Justice Guy] De Marco said he also wasn’t “inclined” to believe that Meloche punched Callender out of fear, but added he couldn’t exclude it as a possibility.

At one point, Meloche said, Callender grabbed his arm and spun him around.

“I got scared when he grabbed my arm,” said

Meloche. “I said don’t (expletive) touch me. I got really scared when he turned me around.”

That was when he punched Callender, then Jarecki. De Marco said that despite Meloche’s comments about the men, there was no evidence to suggest Meloche was trying to incite others to jump in.”

Even without the hate crime element, this case is a little weird. What about evidence to suggest that Meloche was running from the police and tried to fight one of them (say, from the officer in question)? What about the fact that he punched Callender as well, but was only convicted for the injuries against Jarecki? And with the hate crime element: what about the fact that Meloche started it? And that he had two others with him who may have joined in the verbal harassment, but that no one is talking about them? And what about the fact the one thing Meloche was convicted for, assault causing bodily harm, only got him a suspended sentence, a.k.a. no jail time?

I’m not the first person to think this is a screwy situation, which is a good thing, because otherwise I would probably go insane. In this morning’s Windsor Star, Professor David Tanovich, from the faculty of law at the University of Windsor, Ontario, calls for a stronger response to the treatment of anti-gay hate crimes in court.

Tanovich argues that the point of sentencing is to denounce and deter, and that when a sentence is ridiculously light — as it is in this instance — it doesn’t send the message that needs to be sent: that hate is unacceptable.

He also breaks down the decision in the case, and notes that the prime reason for light sentencing — Meloche’s “exemplary background” in working with autistic children, cancer fundraising, and more relevantly, church activities — also makes it more likely that his actions were motivated by homophobia. Obviously, so does the fact that he used hateful language before attacking.

Tanovich writes:

“If Meloche had broken the nose and cheekbone of a religious leader referring to him in a derogatory manner, no one would have any difficulty concluding that it was a hate crime requiring a sentence of imprisonment.

We need to ensure that we apply the same standards to all communities who face hate and discrimination on a daily basis.

Hopefully, the Crown will appeal.”

Hopefully indeed.

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Carolyn is the NSFW Editor for Autostraddle.com. She is also a freelance copy editor and writer, and her work has appeared in Bitch, Xtra!, Jezebel, the Billfold, and other places. Find her on twitter.

Carolyn has written 258 articles for us.

18 Comments

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    I think it’s ridiculous to use somebody’s “good” background as a reason for a light sentencing. This is like saying it’s wrong to persecute priests who molest children because they’ve “done so much good.”

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      Your statement reminds me of some email chain letter quiz thing years ago where it described two politicians: one was an artist, an intellectual, valued fidelity and the family, religious, never smoked, never drank. The other one was an alcoholic, chain-smoker, not very religious, etc. “Which of these two would you vote for in an election?” Former was Hitler, the latter was Churchill. Oops.

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        Somehow I feel a lot better that before I even read which was which, I knew I would probably go for the second guy, and seeing I knew what i was talking about! Very good example though, i will have to remember that in the future

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      I feel sorry for this John Meloche. I have been following this case closly. In court it showed that the one guy kept on touching Meloche and he tried to move out of the way but he would not stop. It proved that this case had nothing to do with gay bashing in any sort. It proved that one guy kept on getting in Meloche space. Im gay and I think it is pathetic the fact that if a gay guy gets punched ONCE (not several times) then its hate crime. It proved in court, that yes Meloche is with the church, in his spare time helps out the need and works with a autistic boy, do you think maybe its because he is a good caring person? Maybe the media is just attacking him?

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    i wonder what meloche would have been found guilty of had his orientation or even race/ethnicity been different. is it more than his community status that kept him out of more trouble, or just the fact that he is straight? im just very surprised at how easily he got off.

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    Woah, this guy is my friend and I got told about this a few days ago by a mutual friend. Its a bit random to see a friend in the press for such an unfortunate situation and being covered on Autostraddle. The funny thing is should they consider how hardworking Denton is, supporting himself through university and his charity and outreach work? Or should the fact that a victim was assaulted and then the criminal judged and charged appropriately not be enforced??? BLARGGGHHH and ANYONE who has seen Denton- a slight man is the sweetest way I could put it- would NOT be “afraid”. That is called bullshit.

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    It’s OK to Attack Homophobic people if You Go to Church and Do Charity Work too?

    I don’t like violence as a solution but sometimes the rage that this kind of event bring to my head is enormous.

    This and a case in Argentina where a guy killed the stepdaughter girlfriend. And only given 15years in prison

    It’s make me sick

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    I can only hope this verdict and sanction will not rest as is. My biggest problem with this is Tanovich’s point that it sends the message that you can pull this shit and get away with it. I wish for every possible good thing for the victims. Also, as a U.S. citizen living in the South, I usually perceive Canada as such a more laid back place. Like I’d move there if it weren’t so damn cold. I feel mildly disillusioned.

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    So if you’re going to church, you think that you have a legally right to be a gaybasher. Read the Holy Bible, The Old Testament & the messages of King David. Rememder the 10 Commmendments : You shall never hurt another human.
    You shall never be a tru Christian! Go to Hell!

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