Lost in the “fiscal cliff” headlines dominating December’s news was the FBI’s annual hate crime statistics report confirming that, for LGBT Americans, the very ability to move about in public remains compromised by threats of violence. Fourteen years after Matthew Shepherd was murdered because he was gay, and three years after President Obama signed the hate crimes law that bears Matthew’s name, the victimization of Americans based on their sexual orientation remains real, and on the rise.
According to the FBI’s December report, while the overall number of bias-motivated incidents decreased from 2010 to 2011, the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation actually increased to 1300, up almost 3 percent from the previous year. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) report mirrors this data, finding that the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 rose 11 percent from 2010. Thus, while reported hate crimes based on race, religion and ethnicity dropped, hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose, making it the second most common form of bias crime in America. In addition to the troubling hate crime statistics, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2011 National School Climate Survey reports over a third of LGBT students faced physical harassment and nearly 20 percent were assaulted in the last year.