Yesterday, 25 Senators sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions, urging him to prioritize combating hate crimes within the Department of Justice (DOJ) and to reaffirm DOJ’s commitment to working with state and local officials to prosecute hate crimes and improve their reporting. In addition, the letter requests full funding for DOJ’s Community Relations Service and Civil Rights Division for FY 2018 and the remainder of FY 2017, and calls on Attorney General Sessions to reaffirm DOJ’s commitment to prosecuting hate crimes at the federal level when appropriate.
The letter, led by Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), stated in part:
“…Many members of racial, ethnic, and religious minority communities, as well as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people, live in very real fear for their safety. They are scared, and it is incumbent upon you as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer to demonstrate to them and all Americans that discrimination and violence against any individual because of who they are, how they worship, or who they love will not be tolerated in our country”
In 2015, the most recent year in which government statistics are available, the FBI reported that bias-motivated incidents based on gender identity -- added for the first time in 2013 -- have increased from 31 reported to the FBI in 2013 to 114 in 2015. While growing, the number likely only represents a fraction of such cases given that thousands of law enforcement agencies throughout the country did not submit any data. In addition, the data shows a 3.5 percent increase in bias-motivated incidents due to sexual orientation -- 1,053 incidents in 2015.
Furthermore, the Southern Poverty Law Center has collected reports of 1,372 bias-motivated incidents between the day after Election Day and February 7, 2017. In addition, seven transgender women, nearly all of them black women, have been murdered since the new year began. These incidents and murders underline the importance of DOJ taking an active role in preventing and responding to hate crimes. HRC applauds the Senators who signed this letter to Attorney General Sessions and echoes their call to DOJ to prioritize combating hate crime.