For the First Time Ever, FBI Reports on Hate Crimes Based on Gender Identity

by Stephen Peters

WASHINGTON - Yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) released its annual Hate Crime Statistics for 2013, including for the first time statistics for hate crimes reported based on gender identity. The Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, responded to the report by urging all law enforcement to report hate crimes in their jurisdiction in order to ensure that the state of hate violence in the United States is accurately reported.

“Hate crimes are different from other crimes because they affect not only the victims and their families, but generate fear and insecurity for the entire community they target,” said David Stacy, HRC’s Government Affairs Director. “While reporting statistics on hate crimes based on sexual orientation - and now on gender identity - are important first steps, so much more work is needed to prevent bias-motivated violence. For example, too many states still do not have an LGBT-inclusive state-level hate crimes law, and we are committed to working with our partners and allies to change that. All people should have the opportunity to live openly, honestly, and safely in their community without fear of harassment or violence.”

This year, law enforcement agencies reported 5,928 hate crime incidents involving 6,933 offenses to the FBI. Of those, 20.2 percent of all hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation, second to crimes motivated by racial bias, and .5 percent of hate crimes were based on gender identity. According to the FBI, more law enforcement agencies in the United States participated in the 2013 data collection effort than ever before. 15,016 law enforcement agencies voluntarily reported their statistics to the FBI compared to 14,511 participating agencies in 2012.

There was a slight decrease in crimes against LGBT individuals in 2013, after increases each year since 2009.  1,233 incidents based on sexual orientation were reported in 2013, down slightly from the past three years, when law enforcement agencies reported 1,299, 1,293, and 1,277 hate crimes in 2012, 2011, and 2010, respectively.  (Statistics are published a year after they are reported.)

While this FBI data is incredibly valuable, it does not paint a complete picture of hate crimes against LGBT Americans because of two significant factors. First, under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the FBI only began collecting data on hate crimes committed on the basis of gender identity last year and were reported for the first time in this year’s report.  HRC remains concerned that the low number of responses for hate crimes based on gender identity and gender non-conformity -- 31 incidents -- suggests that law enforcement are mischaracterizing hate based crimes as ones based on either sexual orientation or gender. Second, current statistics only provide a partial snapshot of hate crimes in America.  As in past years, the vast majority of the participating agencies (88%) reported zero hate crimes.  This means that law enforcement in those participating agencies affirmatively reported to the FBI that no hate crime incidents occurred in their jurisdiction.  In addition, thousands of police agencies across the nation did not submit data to the FBI, including at least one agency with a population of more than 250,000 people, and at least seven agencies in cities with a population between 100,000 and 250,000.

In addition, HRC and partner organizations have worked with the FBI since the passage of the hate crimes bill, assisting in updating the agency’s crime reporting form, training materials, and providing details on recent hate crimes when they occur.  HRC will continue to work with law enforcement officials and the Department of Justice to press for wider reporting because it is critical to understanding the state of hate violence in America.

On October 28 of this year, HRC and advocates across the country commemorated the fifth anniversary of the signing of the federal HCPA.  To commemorate the milestone, HRC released a guide providing an explanation of the federal hate crimes law, an analysis of the effectiveness of the law, and a depiction of the current landscape of hate crimes laws in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The publication builds on the advocacy guide that HRC originally published in 2009.

The passage of the HCPA was a significant victory in the fight for equality for LGBT people because it was the first major piece of civil rights legislation protecting LGBT individuals. However, as the guide points out, it does not end the need for state lawmakers to address hate-motivated crimes that terrorize communities across the country. Every state must consider ways to use state laws to supplement the HCPA.

HRC’s guide shows state-level advocates what their state legislatures must do to fully address the problem of hate crimes. The guide also points out several priorities in which HRC is committed to engaging in advocacy and education efforts to bring awareness to hate based violence and to expand legislation aimed at addressing hate crimes.

Several priorities include:

  • Amend the HCSA to mandate reporting. In August 2014, FBI Director James Comey explained, “We must continue to impress upon our state and local counterparts in every jurisdiction the need to track and report hate crimes. It is not something we can ignore or sweep under the rug.” One effective way of ensuring greater compliance is to mandate hate crimes statistics reporting for local jurisdictions. This would provide a more complete picture of hate based violence in the United States and allow for targeted efforts to address areas with high levels of hate crimes.

  • Passage of state laws that protect LGBT individuals from hate crimes. The HCPA only protects LGBT victims from violent crimes where the federal government has jurisdiction over the underlying criminal act, regardless of the bias motivation. Since most crimes in the U.S. are still prosecuted at the state level, LGBT victims remain particularly vulnerable to hate crimes in the states that do not provide protections for individuals based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Passage of state level HCPAs allows states to prosecute hate crimes without a federal nexus and in many instances crimes against property.

  • Expand education and training initiatives. The government must complement tough laws and vigorous enforcement – which can deter and address violence motivated by bigotry – with education and training initiatives designed to reduce prejudice. The federal government has an essential role to play in helping law enforcement, communities, and schools implement effective hate crimes prevention programs and activities. Education and exposure are the cornerstones of a long-term solution to prejudice, discrimination and bigotry against all communities. A federal anti-bias education effort would exemplify a proactive commitment to challenging prejudice, stereotyping, and all forms of discrimination that affect the whole community.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. HRC envisions a world where LGBT people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.


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