>According to a recently released FBI report, the number of reported hate crimes in 2008 increased since the previous year, from 7,624 incidents to 7,783. Of these cases, 51.3% were motivated by a racial bias, 19.5% by religious prejudice, and 16.7% by bias against sexual orientation. Hate crimes motivated by the victim's actual or perceived sexual orientation increased 11% since 2007.
These data are not perfect indicators of the number of hate crimes committed in the U.S., since they only reflect the incidents reported to authorities. Hate crimes often go unreported--especially if the victims lack the resources or knowledge to respond to hate crimes, or fear retaliation if they draw attention to themselves--and thus the actual number of hate crimes is likely significantly higher than what the FBI claims. Nevertheless, the FBI's report demonstrates the disturbing number of crimes motivated by anti-LGBT bias or other forms of prejudice or bigotry.
It is fortunate that Congress and President Obama passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
this fall, which expands previous federal hate crime laws
to include crimes motivated by bias against sexual orientation and gender/gender identity. With law enforcement officials (hopefully!) exercising this new legislation against biased-motivated crimes--and organizations like GLSEN working to eliminate anti-LGBT violence in schools and beyond--we hope to see these rising numbers of hate crimes fall in the years to come.