FBI Reports Six Percent Increase in Hate Crimes Based on Sexual Orientation in 2007

by HRC Staff

Rise in Hate Crimes Based on Sexual Orientation Underscores Need to Elect Leaders who support Federal Hate Crimes Legislation.

WASHINGTON-The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization, responded today to the Federal Bureau of Investigation report which showed the incidence of bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation increased by 6 percent in 2007. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation remain the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion. This increase comes as the Hate Crimes Statistics, 2007, also reported that the overall incidence of bias-motivated crimes decreased in 2007.

"The FBI's 2007 hate crimes report shows once again that hate crimes protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community are long overdue," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "We are hopeful that after next week's election we will finally have a President and a Congress that will enact federal hate crimes legislation into law."

The FBI report shows the continuing crisis of hate violence in America. This month marks the 10th anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard from hate violence. In those ten years, the FBI has documented over ten thousand hate crimes based on sexual orientation alone. A decade after Matthew's death, federal hate crimes legislation protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens has yet to be signed into law.

Last year, Congress passed federal hate crimes legislation in both the U.S. House and the Senate in a bipartisan vote. Unfortunately, President Bush's veto threat blocked enactment of the legislation.

Federal legislation is crucial to ensuring local law enforcement is given the tools they need to combat hate violence in our communities. If signed into law, the Act would give the federal government expanded jurisdiction to investigate and prosecute violent crimes based on a person's race, color, religion or national origin as well as their sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability. It also provides assistance to local law enforcement to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence. Existing federal hate crimes law covers only certain hate crimes that are based on a victim's race, color, religion and national origin.

Historical Pervasiveness of Bias-Motivated Violence

Each year the FBI releases statistics of bias-motivated crime in the United States. While thousands of crimes are reported by hundreds of jurisdictions each year, the Human Rights Campaign believes this is only a fraction of the actual number of bias-motivated crime that occur in any given year. Reporting by state and local authorities to the FBI is voluntary and many jurisdictions lack the time and training to effectively report each incident of bias-motivated violence that occurs in a year.

While the FBI statistics provide a glimpse of the pervasiveness of bias-motivated violence in the United States, these statistics should be used as a starting point, not a comprehensive number. The Human Rights Campaign compiles media reports of hate crimes throughout the United States, in 2007 alone the media reported dozens of incidents of violent, bias-motivated crime that were clearly not reflected in the FBI report. While not authoritative, the Human Rights Campaign was able to match up several jurisdictions that reported zero incidents and non-reporting jurisdictions with media reports of bias motivated violent crime towards the LGBT community.

FBI statistics show that since 1991 over 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported, with a slight decrease in the number of hate crimes reported in 2007. In 2007, 2,025 law enforcement agencies reported 7,624 hate crime incidents involving 9,006 offenses. This is a decrease from the 2006 report in which 2,105 law enforcement agencies reported 7,722 incidents involving 9,080 offenses.

Violent crimes based on race-related bias were by far the most common, representing 51 percent of all offenses for 2007. Violent crimes based on religion represented 18 percent and ethnicity/national origin, 13 percent. Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. This is an increase from the 2006 report where hate crimes based on sexual orientation totaled 15.5% of incidents reported (1,195). The FBI does not report hate crimes based on gender identity.

In contrast, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a non-profit organization that tracks bias incidents against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people, reported 1,833 incidents for 2007 from only 14 regions, compared to the 2,025 agencies reporting to the FBI in 2007.

The historical trend regarding hate crimes based on sexual orientation is unclear. While violent hate crimes based on sexual orientation declined from 2004 to 2005 according to both FBI statistics and the NCAVP, the NCAVP records show that one-year decline merely dropped the levels back to the pre-2003 levels. Below please find the most recent data regarding hate crimes incidents for an eight year time frame.

YearFBI statistics on incidents of sexual orientation hate crimeNCAVP statistics on incidents of anti-LGBT hate crimes*

*Each NCAVP report is a two year snapshot of a dozen or so reporting jurisdictions-for example, the 2005 numbers are paired with the 2004 numbers from the same selection of reporting jurisdictions. The NCAVP collects these statistics by gathering client data from the local anti-LGBT violence assistance programs in these jurisdictions. It is important to read the NCAVP reports not as the latest in a continuing series of linked reports, but as the latest in a series of year-to-year analyses of anti-LGBT incidents in participating regions, in part because the cities and regions represented in each year's report is slightly different.

The Human Rights Campaign is America's largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.

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