Last April, police say, a Marshall University football player saw two men kissing on a Huntington street, left a car, shouted homophobic slurs and attacked the men.

Those charges against Steward Butler may sound like a textbook hate crime case. But, a year later, a judge is dropping civil rights violation charges against the ex-running back.

That's because West Virginia, like 19 other states, doesn't have hate crime laws protecting people specifically because of sexual orientation.

While the U.S. Justice Department still weighs its options, some observers say the case may not fit federal hate crime requirements, if only for technical reasons.

West Virginia prosecutors hope for a favorable appeal with the state Supreme Court. Otherwise, they may have to lobby a Legislature that typically hasn't added LGBT protections.