Report shows rise in lesbian and gay hate crimes for third year in a row
(WASHINGTON D.C.) – The Human Rights Campaign responded yesterday to the Federal Bureau of Investigation report which showed the number of victims of bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation increased by 11 percent in 2008. The statistics show that reported hate crimes against the LGBT community have increased for the third year in a row. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation remain the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion.
“These numbers are unacceptable. While it is so important that we have the new federal hate crimes law, it is critical to ensure that we continue working with the Department of Justice to ensure the safety of LGBT citizens,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We have to prosecute each hate crime to the fullest extent of the law, but we also need to get at the roots. When we don't know each other as human beings, ignorance breeds misunderstanding, which breeds hate, which too often this year led to violence. We have to keep fighting the prejudices and stereotypes that underlie these acts.”
On October 28, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The new law gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence by providing the Justice Department with jurisdiction over crimes of violence where a perpetrator has selected a victim because of the victim’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. In addition, it provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions with investigations and prosecutions of bias-motivated crimes of violence.
The new law also authorizes the Justice Department to provide grants to state and local communities to cover the extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes. Moreover, it authorizes the provision of grants for local programs to combat hate crimes committed by juveniles, including programs that train local law enforcement officers in identifying, investigating, prosecuting and preventing hate crimes.
The data comes just days after the LGBT community mourned on Transgender Day of Remembrance – honoring the memories of those lost in hate crimes motivated by gender identity bias. While current data does not track crimes on based on gender or gender identity, the new hate crimes law requires the FBI to track statistics on these incidents.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act honors the memory of Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student brutally murdered in an act of hate violence in 1998, and James Byrd, an African-American man who was dragged to death in Jasper, Texas, in 1998.