The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has reported a six percent increase in hate crimes based on sexual orientation in the US during 2007.
While the annual Hate Crimes Statistics report says that hate crimes in general decreased over the period, those based on sexual orientation increased and remain the third most common type of hate crimes, behind race and religion.
The Human Rights Campaign, the US’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organisation, said that the report vindicated activists’ call for improved hate crimes legislation.
“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.”
October 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 in the US has yet to be signed into law.
Last year, Congress passed federal hate crimes legislation in both the House and the Senate in a bipartisan vote. However, President Bush’s veto threat blocked enactment of the legislation.
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, colour, 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 laws cover only certain hate crimes that are based on a victim’s race, colour, religion and national origin.