WASHINGTON -- An 8 percent increase in reported hate crimes against gays and lesbians in 1997 was among the statistics released over the weekend by the Federal Bureau of Investigationís (FBI) Uniform Crime Reporting Program. This increase is particularly troubling since overall serious crime continues its decrease.
"While we share in the good news about the decrease in serious crime, the hate crime statistics are disturbing," said HRC Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. "We know that the FBI hate crime statistics are the tip of the iceberg, because they are derived from police who voluntarily submit statistics to the FBI. Once again, we underscore the need for the 106th Congress to direct the moral authority and resources of our federal government to the fight against hate crimes by passing the Hate Crimes Prevention Act early in the next session."
The FBI report, released Sunday, Nov. 22, found that 1,102 crimes targeting people because of their sexual orientation were committed in 1997. This was an eight percent increase over the 1,016 bias-motivated incidents reported to the FBI in 1996. In 1995, the FBI reported 1,019 hate crimes based on sexual orientation.
Last July, both the House and Senate Judiciary Committees held hearings to amend current federal law to include sexual orientation, gender and disability, and to expand federal law enforcement jurisdiction as an important step towards closing a loophole needed to assist Americans affected by hate motivated attacks. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA), sponsored in the last Congress by Sens. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., Arlen Specter, R-Pa., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Reps. Bill McCollum, R-Fla., and Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would amend current federal law to include real or perceived sexual orientation, gender, and disability. The bill would enable the FBI to investigate and prosecute violent hate crimes against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals.
Currently, only 21 states and the District of Columbia include sexual orientation in their state hate crimes statutes. Eighteen states have hate crimes laws that do not include sexual orientation, and eight states have no hate crimes statutes whatsoever. Three states have laws that are unclear.
Two federal hate crimes laws include "sexual orientation" as a protected group. The Hate Crimes Statistics Act, under which these data were released Sunday were collected, and the Hate Crimes Sentencing Enhancement Act, which provides for tougher sentencing when it is proven that a crime committed on federal property was motivated by bias.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.