Hate Crimes Based On Sexual Orientation Most Violent, On The Rise

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2012

The FBI has released its annual Hate Crime Statistics for 2011 this morning, and those numbers contain some good news and some bad news. The good news is that hate crime offenses overall have gone down in 2011 when compared to 2010. The bad news is that hate crimes based  on sexual orientation have actually gone up during the same period.

The FBI collects three sets of hate crime statistics: hate crime incidents, offenses, and victims. According to the FBI’s definition, an incident represents a single occurrence of one or more hate crime offenses (each offense being an assault, a robbery, an act of vandalism, etc.) against one or more victims. The statistics for 2011 look like this (with 2010 data in parentheses):

Total Hate Crime Incidents, 2011
(2010)
Total Hate Crime Offenses,
2011
(2010)
Total Hate Crime Victims, 2011
(2010)
Race 2,917
(3,135)
3,465
(3,725)
3,645
(3,949)
Religion 1,233
(1,322)
1,318
(1,409)
1,480
(1,522)
Sexual Orientation 1,293
(1,277)
1,508
(1,470)
1,572
(1,528)
Ethnicity 720
(847)
891
(1040)
939
(1,122)
Disability 53
(43)
58
(46)
61
(48)
TOTAL 6,222
(6,628)
7,254
(7,699)
7,713
(8,208)
Totals don’t add up due to additional
multi-category hate crime incidents, offenses and victims.

One argument against hate crimes as a category claims that the distinction singles out minority populations for special treatment. But a quick look at the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics shows that not to be the case. Among the 2,917 incidents in 2011 based on race, 577 were anti-white. Anti-Protestant hate crime incidents made up 49 of the 1,233 religious based hate crime incidents, and 17 anti-heterosexual hate crime incidents were among the 1,508 based on sexual orientation.

Hate crime offenses based on sexual orientation continue to be the most physically violent. This year, three of the four murders counted in the FBI’s Hate Crime Statistics were anti-gay male murders (the other was anti-black). When you look at physically violent hate crimes against persons (murder and non-negligent manslaughter, forcible rape, and aggravated and simple assault) as a percentage of all hate crimes for each protected category, half of all hate crimes based on sexual orientation are personally violent ones:

Total Hate Crime Offenses, 2011 Violent Crimes, percentage of total
Race 3,465 1,226 35%
Religion 1,318 144 11%
Sexual Orientation 1,508 748 50%
Ethnicity 891 355 40%
Disability 58 24 41%
TOTAL 7,254 2,501 34%
Totals don’t add up due to additional
multi-category hate crime offenses.

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

It may be that one argument against hate crimes as a category claims that the distinction singles out minority populations for special treatment. But as someone who opposes enhanced sentencing for hate crimes (while supporting tracking) that is not a claim that I make or which I’ve actually heard proposed by other opponents.

My objection to hate crime sentence enhancement is that it punishes thought and speech. While I wish there was less hatred in the world, I do not want it made illegal.

And I think that by assigning some hatreds as unacceptable we open ourselves up to the eventuality of preferred ideology and banned ideology. We pride ourselves that the KKK and civil rights activists have the same rights in this country. But with hate crime enhancements, that begins to crumble. As a member of a community that has historically been viewed as undesirable, I am troubled by categorization of some speech (as good and some as bad. And while hate crimes only punish speech and thought when a crime is occurring, it is conceptually an opened door.

I also find that group-based categorization in criminalizing action/speech leads to absurdity. For example, if one of our readers were so foolish as to commit a violent crime while protesting the white male heterosexist hegemony, their punishment could be harsher (if their protest was expressed in hate speech) than the person who commits the same crime against the same person while part of a PETA protest. Because hatred based on race, gender, and orientation is punishable; hatred based on animal policy is not.

And it has also been my observation that since the enactment of hate crime enhancements that this has been in some ways a distraction and a subject of discord. The immediate question is “will they or won’t they file hate crimes” and there are hard feelings and recriminations against police and district attorneys if the guilty party is captured and tried for the crimes they do commit.

I am familiar with the arguments in favor of such enhancements and some have merit. It is true that some hate crimes do victimize communities and not just individuals. Yes, hate crimes can function as a form of terrorism.

But it isn’t, to me, worth adding punishment based on the thought and speech which society or those in authority find not to their liking.

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2012

Timothy, I’m shocked that you would make this claim:

My objection to hate crime sentence enhancement is that it punishes thought and speech.

The statutes criminalize motivation, and is consistent with other statutes which criminalize motivation — First degree murder vs manslaughter, for example.

In no way does it crimnialize thought and speech.

And by the way, if we had a rash of crimes based on animal policy — if PETA were to try to intimidate entire communities based on whether they ate meat or had pets — then perhaps an additional expansion is in order. But I’m really not aware of any identified communities being singled out in that kind of manner.

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2012

And yes, opponents do (did) claim that it singles out minority populations for special treatment that would be unavailable to the majority:

http://www.boxturtlebulletin.com/2007/03/13/246

That was only one argument, as I said, but it was made.

Lucrece

December 11th, 2012

Yeah, we already utilize motivation in our legal system to determine punishment.

It is different when one person kills another over some drunken fight over a love interests — suddenly other people with love interests aren’t terrified of being next.

When a person in your neighborhood is beat to a pulp just for being gay, it’s not unreasonable to assume that other gay people will feel in danger, and this is a form of terrorism.

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

Jim,

Yes, it is an argument made by some (as you illustrated) but it is not an argument I make.

And I very much disagree with your argument about motivation.

In other motivation criminalization, it is intent that is considered as motivation. I.e. was the act intentional, did it desire the outcome, was it planned out, were there co-conspirators.

This is a different type of “motivation”. This is not “what” motivation which answers the question about what was intended and judges some intended consequences to be worse than accidental consequences.

This is “why” motivation that judges some reasons as being more worthy of punishment than others. This isn’t about desire or lack of desire to harm. This is about beliefs and emotions and words.

And I’m astonished at the statement “In no way does it crimnialize thought and speech.”

If assaulting someone while silent is given one sentence and assaulting someone while shouting homophobic slurs results in another sentence, then it is inconceivable to suggest that the only difference between the two (the shouting of slurs) is not being punished.

And your argument about adding PETA type animus to the groups list illustrates the problem with such laws. They do not treat people equally – unless they get to be added to the list.

Thus if you are only an occasional victim (or an unpopular one) then you don’t get the same treatment under law as a frequent (or politically popular) victim.

So then the law is ever changing to accommodate new victim groups or to placate political advocacy groups. Or, far too often, to deny such status so as to put others “in their place” or to oppose “those radical leftist liberals”. It’s politically driven situational justice that assigns legal punishment to social opprobrium.

It’s a simple truth. Regardless of how it’s dressed up, if you punish Crime A differently from Crime B because of the words or ideology behind Crime A, then you are punishing the words and ideology of Crime A.

Lucrece

December 11th, 2012

Or those words in combination with Crime A produce a different impact on the population and merit a different punishment.

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

Yes, Lucrece. That is the argument.

I understand it, I just don’t think it is worth attaching punishment to words or beliefs. Ugly monsters lie down that road.

Regan DuCasse

December 11th, 2012

There is a distinct pattern that arises when discussion hate crimes, and the ‘enhancement’ aspect.
As Jim pointed out, motive, special circumstances and condition of the victim, if they were handicapped or a child, also carries greater standards of punishment.
However, the issue of hate crimes is unique in the aspect that gay men in particular are unsympathetic victims.
The argument raised keeps maintaining the motives and behavior strictly to the perpetrator, without considering the same of the law enforcers, investigators, judges and juries.
For example, Brandon Teena was raped and beaten by two perps KNOWN to her because they had a previous acquaintance.
Both men had criminal records, but what stands out, is that they were both on parole.
A felony like rape, should have had them arrested and held without bail.
However, because of the dereliction and prejudice on the part of the sheriff, he only gave the perps a cursory interview and let them go.
However, he was very willing to threaten Brandon Teena with jail because of some of the misdemeanors on his record.
And because of the bias of the sheriff, Teena’s assailants ended up murdering three young people, including Teena.
This is why, unless there are assurances that the adjudication of the crime will be attended to with equal vigor, then the enhancement to assure of that justice must stay.
It’s not exactly enhancement over and above what it would be for a first degree murder, it’s usually in place so that the charges and sentencing are UP to what they are supposed to be for it.

Hope that clears it up for you, Tim.

Timothy Kincaid

December 11th, 2012

Regan,

I am very clear as to the arguments in favor of enhancements in sentencing based on the word and opinion of the perpetrator.

However, your argument does not speak to that situation. Instead you seem to be arguing that enhanced sentences are necessary to compensate for institutional bias.

You seem to be suggesting that if only the sheriff had more leeway in performing his job, if only he had more power to punish some but not others, that would have led to a more favorable result.

But that is, in my opinion, nonsense and, indeed, a counter argument. If we have enhancements based on whether law enforcement believes that the perpetrators are engaging in hate, then that is not some check or balance; rather it is but one more “judgment call” that is turned over to those who have notoriously abused that privilege.

In the situation of Brandon Teena, hate crimes enhancements would not have keep Teena alive. They would have been ignored in their entirety by the Sheriff and judicial system who would have “found no evidence of a hate crime”.

Your example should remind us that justice MUST be blind. It should never dole out one punishment for “those type of people” and another for someone else. Nor should it say that crimes against group A are more heinous than crimes against those who are not in group A, even if group A has been picked on in the past.

It is a simple fact that has been validated over and over in history: if you allow authority to treat people differently, it will. And if people are treated differently, someone isn’t being treated fairly.

Jim Burroway

December 11th, 2012

I am very clear as to the arguments in favor of enhancements in sentencing based on the word and opinion of the perpetrator.

Timothy, I cannot believe you would formunate that sentence the way you did, except I know you well enough to know that you are very careful with your words.

But what you wrote appears to suggest that the law holds the following hypothetical scenario:

— Fred Phelps hates gay people, as he has said so many times.

— Fred Phelps kills Matthew Shepard.

— Therefore, Fred Phelps is liable for a hate crimes enhancement.

Is that how you understand it?

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