Homosexual people make up ten percent of the population; that means if you are sitting in a classroom of thirty, then more than likely three of those people are gay. However, this overwhelmingly large minority group continues to be one of the least protected by the government as well as most heavily targeted by discrimination and Hate Crimes.
Regardless of the powerful shift in public opinion on homosexuality during the last twenty years and the outcry for more government intervention in the case of hate crimes and other such atrocities, the laws have remained invariable. A hate crime is an act of aggression against an individual’s actual or perceived race, ethnicity, religions, disability, sexual orientation, or gender. Examples include assault and battery, vandalism, or threats which involve bias indicators – pieces of evidence like bigoted name-calling or graffiti. These crimes do not target the individuals who are physically or verbally battered but the community the individual is or is thought to be a member on a whole.
These offenses are far more damaging since they attack someone for who they are rather than what they have done or possess. They also tear at the fragile existence of a society by making them feel isolated and vulnerable. Currently there are only two federal laws and 21 states, plus the District of Columbia, which protect sexual minorities from hate crimes, and both federal laws are worthless in persecuting nearly all cases reported. The first, the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, merely requires the FBI to collect and examine hate crime statistics given to them from state and local law enforcement agencies. However, these statistics must be volunteered from the agencies, which leaves a rather large loophole for bigoted agents to crawl through; therefore, many statistics are massively misrepresented.
One state, Alabama, reported that there were no hate crimes whatsoever in their last poll, which is ridiculously unlikely. The other hate crime law in effect is the Hate Crime Sentencing Act, passed in 1994. It states that perpetrators of a hate crime are to be given not less than three offense levels for offenses that the finder of fact at trial determines beyond a reasonable doubt are hate crimes. This law, however is only in effect if someone is attacked on federal property, such as a national park or Indian reservation, while trying to perform a constitutionally protected right, such as vote or attend school. Because of these limitations a gay man from Shreveport who was beaten to death while waiting for a cab outside of a gay bar would not be protected by the hate crime legislation or a certain Matthew Shepard who was attacked while walking down the streets of Laramie, Wyoming.
Hate crimes performed against homosexuals are on the rise as well. The 1996 FBI statistics state that anti-gay hate crimes account for 11. 6% of all hate crimes data collected. Though the overall average is down by 1. 2% from the year prior the crimes are far more violent and public. There were five more arson reports, ten more reports of crimes committed in commercial buildings, and crimes committed in private residences rose from 267 to 318.
These statistics are terrifying, but what makes it even more horrendous is that they are merely the tip of a colossal iceberg; a vast majority of hate crimes go unreported. This is especially evident with the gay community where many members who are attacked feel by reporting the crime they will be outted to family, friends, and co-workers who are not aware of their alternative lifestyle. One distressing example of this occurred as a result of a bombing of a predominantly lesbian bar, The Otherside Lounge, in Atlanta in February 1997. Five bar patrons were injured severely enough to be taken to the hopistal by ambulance.
However, one victim who had a shrapnel wound refused to be treated when she saw media swarming the hospital emergency room. Some people also fear re-victimization from police. This can and has included verbal or physical beatings from the police, reluctance to report the crime, as well as laying blame on the victim for the crime, stating things like If you dressed like you’re supposed to, maybe they wouldn’t have .