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File:Map of LGBT-related hate crime law in the United States.svg

US state hate crime laws as they pertain to sexual orientation and gender identity prior to the passage of the Matthew Shepard Act, October 28, 2009.

  Sexual orientation and gender identity recognized in state hate crimes law
  Sexual orientation recognized in state hate crimes law
  Sexual orientation recognized for data collection about hate crimes
  State hate crimes law uninclusive of sexual orientation or gender identity

Hate crime laws in the United States protect against hate crimes (also known as bias crimes) motivated by enmity or animus against a protected class. Although state laws vary, current statutes permit federal prosecution of hate crimes committed on the basis of a person's protected characteristics of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability. The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ)/FBI, as well as campus security authorities, are required to collect and publish hate crime statistics.

Federal prosecution of hate crimes

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1964 Federal Civil Rights Law

The 1964 Federal Civil Rights Law, Template:UnitedStatesCode(b)(2), permits federal prosecution of anyone who "willingly injures, intimidates or interferes with another person, or attempts to do so, by force because of the other person's race, color, religion or national origin" [1] because of the victim's attempt to engage in one of six types of federally protected activities, such as attending school, patronizing a public place/facility, applying for employment, acting as a juror in a state court or voting.

Persons violating the 1969 Federal Hate Crimes Law face a fine or imprisonment of up to one year, or both. If bodily injury results or if such acts of intimidation involve the use of firearms, explosives or fire, individuals can receive prison terms of up to 10 years, while crimes involving kidnapping, sexual assault, or murder can be punishable by life in prison or the death penalty.[1] U.S. Courts provide for criminal sanctions only. The Violence Against Women Act of 1994 contained a provision at Template:USC which allowed victims of gender-motivated hate crimes to seek "compensatory and punitive damages, injunctive and declaratory relief, and such other relief as a court may deem appropriate", but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in United States v. Morrison that the provision is unconstitutional.

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994)

The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, enacted in Template:UnitedStatesCode note Sec. 280003, requires the United States Sentencing Commission to increase the penalties for hate crimes committed on the basis of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, or gender of any person. In 1995, the Sentencing Commission implemented these guidelines, which only apply to federal crimes.[2]

Matthew Shepard Act

On October 28, 2009 President Obama, signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (attached to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010), which expanded existing United States federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability, and which dropped the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity.

State laws

45 states and the District of Columbia have statutes criminalizing various types of bias-motivated violence or intimidation (the exceptions are AR, GA, whose hate crime statute was struck down by the Georgia Supreme Court in 2004,[3] IN, SC, and WY). Each of these statutes covers bias on the basis of race, religion, and ethnicity; 32 of them cover sexual orientation; 32 cover disability; 28 cover gender; 13 cover age; 11 cover transgender/gender-identity; 5 cover political affiliation.[4] and 3 along with Washington, D.C. cover homelessness.[5]

31 states and the District of Columbia have statutes creating a civil cause of action, in addition to the criminal penalty, for similar acts.[4]

27 states and the District of Columbia have statutes requiring the state to collect hate crime statistics; 16 of these cover sexual orientation.[4]

Data collection statutes

Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990

The Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990 Template:UnitedStatesCode, [2] requires the Attorney General to collect data on crimes committed because of the victim's race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity. The bill was signed into law in 1990 by George H. W. Bush, and was the first federal statute to "recognize and name gay, lesbian and bisexual people."[6] Since 1992, the Department of Justice and the FBI have jointly published an annual report on hate crime statistics.[7]

Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994

In 1994, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act expanded the scope to include crimes based on disability, and the FBI began collecting data on disability bias crimes on January 1, 1997.[8] In 1996, Congress permanently reauthorized the Act.

Campus Hate Crimes Right to Know Act of 1997

The Campus Hate Crimes Right to Know Act of 1997 enacted Template:UnitedStatesCode(f)(1)(F)(ii), which requires campus security authorities to collect and report data on hate crimes committed on the basis of race, gender, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, or disability.

Prevalence of hate crimes

The DOJ and the FBI have gathered statistics on hate crimes reported to law enforcement since 1992 in accordance with the Hate Crime Statistics Act. The FBI's Criminal Justice Information Services Division has annually published these statistics as part of its Uniform Crime Reporting program. According to these reports, of the over 113,000 hate crimes since 1991, 55% were motivated by racial bias, 17% by religious bias, 14% sexual orientation bias, 14% ethnicity bias, and 1% disability bias.[9]

Victims per Year by Bias Motivation[7]
Department of Justice / FBI Hate Crimes Statistics
Bias Motive 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
Race 6,438 6,994 6,084 5,514 5,485 5,397 5,545 4,580 4,754 5,119 4,895 5,020 4,956 4,934
Religion 1,617 1,535 1,586 1,720 1,686 1,699 2,118 1,659 1,489 1,586 1,405 1,750 1,628 1,732
Sexual Orientation 1,347 1,281 1,401 1,488 1,558 1,558 1,664 1,513 1,479 1,482 1,213 1,472 1,512 1,706
Ethnicity/National Origin 1,044 1,207 1,132 956 1,040 1,216 2,634 1,409 1,326 1,254 1,228 1,305 1,347 1,226
Disability unknown unknown 12 27 23 36 37 50 43 73 54 95 84 85
Single-Bias 10,446 11,017 9,851 9705 9,792 9,906 11,998 9,211 9,091 9,514 8,795 9,642 9,527 9,683
Multiple-Bias 23 22 40 17 10 18 22 11 9 14 9 10 8 8
Total 10,469 11,039 10,255 9,722 9,802 9,924 12,020 9,222 9,100 9,528 8,804 9,652 9,535 9,691


2008 Hate Crimes vs. 2008 Crimes per offense type[10][11]
Department of Justice / FBI crimes statistics
Offense type Hate Crimes All US Crimes
Murder and non-negligent manslaughter 7 16,272
Forcible rape 11 89,000
Robbery 145 441,855
Aggravated assault 1,025 834,885
Burglary 158 2,222,196
Larceny-theft 224 6,588,873
Motor vehicle theft 26 956,846

Deliberate attacks on the homeless as hate crimes

Florida, Maine, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. have hate crime laws that include the homeless status of an individual. [5]

A 2007 study found that the number of violent crimes against the homeless is increasing.[12][13] The rate of such documented crimes in 2005 was 30% higher than of those in 1999.[14] 75% of all perpetrators are under the age of 25. Studies and surveys indicate that homeless people have a much higher criminal victimization rate than the non-homeless, but that most incidents never get reported to authorities.

In recent years, largely due to the efforts of the National Coalition for the Homeless (NCH) and academic researchers the problem of violence against the homeless has gained national attention. The NCH called deliberate attacks against the homeless hate crimes in their report Hate, Violence, and Death on Mainstreet USA (they retain the definition of the American Congress).

The Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino in conjunction with the NCH found that 155 homeless people were killed by non-homeless people in "hate killings", while 76 people were killed in all the other traditional hate crime homicide categories such as race and religion, combined.[13] The CSHE contends that negative and degrading portrayals of the homeless contribute to a climate where violence takes place.

Hate crime laws debate

Penalty-enhancement hate crime laws are traditionally justified on the grounds that, in Chief Justice Rehnquist's words, "this conduct is thought to inflict greater individual and societal harm.... bias-motivated crimes are more likely to provoke retaliatory crimes, inflict distinct emotional harms on their victims, and incite community unrest."[15]

Some people object to penalty-enhancement and federal prosecution laws because they believe they offer preferred protection to certain individuals over others. There is less opposition to data collection statutes.[citation needed]

Classification of crimes committed against white people

Donald Altschiller, librarian at Boston University, asserts that hate crimes against white people are hate crimes as much as any other. "Hate crime laws are colorblind.", he states. Although there are fewer hate crimes directed against white people than against other groups, they do occur and are prosecuted.[16] Hate crime statistics published in 2002, gathered by the FBI under the auspices of the Hate Crime Statistics Act of 1990, documented over 7,000 hate crime incidents, in roughly one-fifth of which the victims were white people.[17] However, these statistics have caused dispute. The FBI's hate crimes statistics for 1993, which similarly reported 20% of all hate crimes to be committed against white people, prompted Jill Tregor, executive director of Intergroup Clearinghouse, to decry it as "an abuse of what the hate crime laws were intended to cover", stating that the white victims of these crimes were employing hate crime laws as a means to further penalize minorities.[18]

James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter note that white people, including those who may be sympathetic to the plight of those who are victims of hate crimes by white people, bristle at the notion that hate crimes against whites are somehow inferior to, and less worthy than, hate crimes against other groups. They observe that whilst, as stated by Altschiller, no hate crime law makes any such distinction, the proposition has been argued by "a number of writers in prominent publications", who have advocated the removal of hate crimes against whites from the category of hate crime, on the grounds that hate crime laws, in their view, are intended to be affirmative action for "protected groups". Jacobs and Potter opine that such a move seems to them to be "fraught with potential for social conflict and constitutional concerns".[18]

Analysis of the 1999 FBI statistics by John Perazzo in 2001 found that white violence against black people was 28 times more likely (1 in 45 incidents) to be labelled as a hate crime than black violence against white people (1 in 1254 incidents).[19] In analysing hate crime hoaxes, Katheryn Russell-Brown propounds a hypothesis explaining the disparity in how hate crimes against whites are viewed with respect to hate crimes against blacks. She hypothesises that the prevailing view in the minds of the public, that hate-crimes-against-blacks hoaxers intend to take advantage of, is that the crime that whites are most likely to commit against blacks is a hate crime, and that it is hard for (in her words) "most of us" to envision a white person committing a crime against a black person for a different reason. The only white people who commit crimes against black people, goes the public belief, are racially prejudiced white extremists. Whereas in contrast, she continues, the situation with hate-crimes-against-whites hoaxers differs, because the popular perception is that black people in general are liable to "run amok, committing depraved, unprovoked acts of violence" against white people.[20]

P. J. Henry and Felicia Pratto assert that whilst certain hate crimes (that they do not specify) against white people are a valid category, that one can "speak sensibly of", and that whilst such crimes may be the result of racial prejudice, they do not constitute actual racism per se, because a hate crime against a member of a group that is superior in the power hierarchy by a member of one that is inferior cannot be racist. The concept of racism as understood by social scientists and others, they assert, requires as a fundamental element a superior-to-inferior group-based power relationship, which a hate crime against white people does not have.[21]

See also


  1. "Civil Rights Statutes".
  2. "Hate Crime Sentencing Act". Anti-Defamation League. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  3. "Nation In Brief". The Washington Post. 2004-10-26. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 State Hate Crime Laws, Anti-Defamation League, June 2006. Retrieved 2007-05-04;
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Florida among first states to make attacks on homeless hate crimes". Retrieved May 25, 2010. May 18, 2010, Orlando Sentinel, Quote: "Florida becomes only the fourth jurisdiction to make attacks on homeless people a hate crime – behind Maryland, Maine and Washington, D.C."
  6. Hate Crimes Protections Timeline, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. Retrieved on 05-04-2007.
  7. 7.0 7.1 "Uniform Crime Reports". CJIS. Retrieved 10 December 2009.
  8. "Hate crime statistics 1996" (PDF). CJIS. Archived from the original on 15 August 2000. Retrieved 10 December 2009.[dead link]
  9. Abrams, J. House Passes Extended Hate Crimes Bill, Guardian Unlimited, 05-03-2007. Retrieved on 05-03-2007.
  10. "Table 2 - Hate Crime Statistics 2008". CJIS. Archived from the original on 27 November 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2009.[dead link]
  11. "Table 1 - Crime in the United States 2008". CJIS. Archived from the original on 22 September 2009. Retrieved 17 December 2009.[dead link]
  12. Lewan, Todd, "Unprovoked Beatings of Homeless Soaring", Associated Press, April 8, 2007.
  13. 13.0 13.1 National Coalition for the Homeless, Hate, "Violence, and Death on Main Street USA: A report on Hate Crimes and Violence Against People Experiencing Homelessness, 2006", February 2007.
  14. National Coalition for the Homeless: A Dream Denied.
  15. Wisconsin v. Mitchell, 508 U.S. 476 (1993).
  16. Donald Altschiller (2005). Hate crimes: a reference handbook. Contemporary world issues (2nd ed.). pp. 146. ISBN 1851096248.
  17. Joel Samaha (2005). Criminal justice (7th ed.). Cengage Learning. pp. 44. ISBN 0534645577.
  18. 18.0 18.1 James B. Jacobs and Kimberly Potter (2000). Hate crimes: criminal law & identity politics. Studies in Crime and Public Policy. Oxford University Press US. pp. 134. ISBN 0195140540.
  19. Anthony Walsh (2004). Race and crime: a biosocial analysis. Nova Publishers. pp. 44–45. ISBN 1590339703.
  20. Katheryn Russell-Brown (1998). The color of crime: racial hoaxes, white fear, black protectionism, police harassment, and other macroaggressions. Critical America. NYU Press. pp. 80. ISBN 0814774717.
  21. P. J. Henry and Felicia Pratto (2010). "Power and Racism". In Ana Guinote and Theresa K. Vescio. The Social Psychology of Power. Guilford Press. pp. 344. ISBN 1606236199.

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