Hate Crimes Protections Timeline

Timeline: Task Force’s long history of combating hate crimes against our community

Task Force works to secure hate crimes protections for community


The National Gay Task Force launches first anti-violence organizing project, headed by Kevin Berrill. The Task Force lobbies successfully for an unprecedented research workshop on anti-gay violence, led by the National Institute of Mental Health.


Task Force-run nationwide crisis line fields 200 violence calls, 5,000 AIDS-related calls and several hundred general calls in its first year. Task Force sends a letter to every member of the attorney general’s Task Force on Family Violence, raising the issue of violence against lesbian and gay youth in their homes. Kevin Berrill presents testimony to the House of Representatives Subcommittee on Police Brutality. Task Force sends information about anti-lesbian and -gay violence to service-related organizations and participates in a joint survey to find out which battered women’s shelters are lesbian-inclusive. The Task Force spearheads a campaign to press the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights to include anti-LGBT violence in a study of violence motivated by bigotry. Several Catholic bishops send letters to the commission supporting the Task Force’s request.


Task Force publishes first-ever annual report of victims of anti-LGBT violence and intimidation, showing 94 percent of respondents are victims of some form of violence, from verbal abuse to assault by fists and/or weapons; 20 percent of respondents report abuse by police.


At the first congressional hearing on hate crimes against LGBT people, vivid testimony by victims brings intense public pressure on federal agencies to address what has by then been recognized as an epidemic of violence.


U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) introduces the Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which requires the Department of Justice to collect and publish data about crimes motivated by hatred based on race, religion, ethnic origin and/or sexual orientation. The Task Force organizes a coalition of religious, civil rights, law enforcement and professional groups to lobby for passage of the HCSA. Organizations in the coalition include the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress, the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, the National Organization for Women, the American Psychological Association and the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights.


The Task Force and allied organizations launch a public education and lobbying campaign called “Counter Hate, Count Hate Crimes” to win passage of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.


President George H.W. Bush signs the Hate Crimes Statistics Act into law, the first federal statute ever to recognize and name gay, lesbian and bisexual people. This marks the first time that representatives of a LGBT organization witness a presidential signing ceremony.


Twenty states have hate crimes laws that include sexual orientation.


The Task Force dispatches Kevin Berrill to Oregon, where a vicious anti-LGBT ballot campaign is under way to enact a constitutional amendment that would, among other things, define homosexuality as a mental illness. The ballot campaign is marked by hate speech over the airwaves and in the streets and dramatically increases harassment and violence against LGBT people.


The Task Force sends staff to Ovett, Miss., to aid and support two lesbians, owners of Sister Spirit, a retreat center, which is under attack by neighbors and townspeople who want to expel the lesbians from Ovett. Task Force leader Peri Jude Radecic successfully lobbies Attorney General Janet Reno to directly intervene and send mediators to resolve the conflict.


A federal law passes that permits harsher sentences for people convicted of violent crimes in which a victim is selected because of race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation if the crime is already considered a federal crime (such as if it takes place on National Park land). Task Force staffers lobby and organize to support the bill.


A wave of vicious hate crimes against LGBT people ratchets up interest in federal hate crimes law to close a gap that exists because federal laws mandating the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes do not include transgender people, gay men, lesbians and bisexuals.


Task Force leader Melinda Paras calls on Reno to lend federal assistance in investigating and preventing homophobic homicides, especially those that accompany statewide ballot campaigns on LGBT issues, but Reno needs a federal mandate to investigate and prosecute hate-motivated violent crimes against LGBT people and others.


Task Force successfully lobbies for reauthorization of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act.


A nail-studded pipe bomb explodes in a crowded Atlanta gay bar in February, the fourth bombing in Atlanta in seven months. The Task Force again notes that inflammatory anti-LGBT rhetoric produces spikes in violence against our community.

June 8, 1997

President Bill Clinton speaks out against hate crimes that target victims based on skin color, religion, ethnicity, gender, physical ability and sexual orientation; announces he will convene a special White House Summit on Hate Crimes in November 1997.

Summer 1997

Task Force leader Kerry Lobel embarks on a nine-city tour of heartland America to take testimony about hate violence perpetrated against LGBT people. The Task Force gathers hundreds of signatures on petitions urging the president to take action and nearly 1,000 signatures are presented at the White House Summit on Hate Crimes, resulting in the introduction of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a bill that adds sexual orientation, gender and disability to existing federal hate crimes law.


The Task Force highlights advocacy for state-level hate crimes laws during its nationwide campaign called Equality Begins at Home. Approximately 250 events are held in 50 state capitals, turning public attention to hate crimes and discrimination against LGBT people. Oct. 11 marks the first anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, but only one state enacts a new hate crimes law. Twenty-two states reject them, including Wyoming, where Shepard was murdered.


The Task Force launches a lobbying and advocacy campaign to specifically include transgender people in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (now called the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act) while bill is bottled up by Republican-led Congress. Dogged and persistent pressure from the Task Force yields trans-inclusive language in committee reports and floor statements by the bill’s Senate sponsor.


The Task Force assists local leaders in Hawaii, where the term "gender identity or expression" was added to the existing hate crimes law, and New Mexico, where Gov. Richardson signs both a hate crimes bill and an anti-discrimination bill into law. The Task Force then holds the New Mexico Power Summit, a statewide grassroots campaign to unite community activists, recognize political allies and raise funds for future battles. The summit was launched to challenge recent efforts to overturn newly established hate crimes and nondiscrimination legislation in the state.


Working with legislative allies and organizational partners, the Task Force secures a House version of the Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act that is specifically transgender-inclusive; the House passes the bill 223 to 199, proving its political viability.


The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which will authorize federal investigation and prosecution of crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender, disability and gender identity, was introduced in the House. The Task Force endorses the trans-inclusive hate crimes bill.


The Task Force Action Fund applauded President Obama's Oct. 28, 2009, signing of LGBT-inclusive hate crimes protections, as part of the Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill. The Senate passed the legislation Oct. 22, 2009, and the U.S. House passed ot Oct. 8, 2009. Earlier, the conference committee had removed a previous death penalty provision that had been added to the legislation. Click here to see what Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey had to say.