Press

NGLTF Pushes For Renewal Of Hate Crimes Law

Date: 
March 19, 1996

Lawmakers in the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee today are holding hearings on the reauthorization of the groundbreaking Hate Crimes Statistics Act, which would require the U.S. Government to continue collecting data on and fighting bias-motivated crime -- including gay bashings.

The Act mandates the Federal Bureau of Investigations to collect and analyze data on crimes involving prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity and disability. The law was signed by President Bush on April 23, 1990, who said at the time, "The faster we can find out about these hideous crimes, the faster we can track down the bigots who commit them." The hearings, held today in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, are in advance of the introduction of the bill by Senators.Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Paul Simon (D-Ill). Senator Hatch chairs the Judiciary Committee.

The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force (NGLTF) has submitted testimony calling on Congress to reauthorize the Act and step up its efforts to combat bias crimes.

"In memory of the thousands of persons victimized by hatred and intolerance since passage of the Hate Crimes Statistics Act...NGLTF respectfully and strongly urges a permanent mandate for the Act," said Helen Gonzales, NGLTF director of Public Policy, in the submitted testimony. "There has been much rhetoric from our elected officials on the need to be 'tough on crime.' This is an opportunity to transform that rhetoric into action."

NGLTF, which played a leadership role in passage of the original bill -- the first piece of federal legislation to affirmatively include sexual orientation -- cautioned the Senate that the circumstance originally motivating the bill remain in 1996.

"Whole communities continue to be intimidated and threatened by heinous acts of violence," said the statement. Last week the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs reported more than 2,200 anti-gay/lesbian incidents were documented in 1995 in 11 cities across the country. Twelve states still offer no deterrent to these crimes in the form of state laws that provide for mandatory data collection or enhanced penalties. Twenty states have hate crime laws that do not include crimes based on sexual orientation.

Since the law was originally passed, the FBI has documented 25,439 hate-motivated crimes. These incidents reflect only a fraction of the actual number of incidents. For example, for those same years, 1991-94, gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender anti-violence projects in five cities alone reported a total of 6,861 anti-gay incidents.

Also in that time, the number of law enforcement agencies participating in HCSA in some manner has increased every year, from 2,800 in 1991 to 7,200 in 1994, though only a portion of the agencies documented bias-related incidents. The FBI has distributed hate crime data collection information and educational materials to 16,000 law enforcement agencies. The agency has trained more than 3,000 law enforcement officials from some 900 agencies.

At the signing of the 1990 Act, the opening of the national toll-free hate crimes hotline to report episodes of crimes was announced. The hotline initially did not document reports of anti-gay violence, but eventually did agree to receive those calls after pressure from NGLTF and others. Unfortunately, last year funding was terminated for the hotline.

"Funding should be allocated to ensure training of all law enforcement personnel on the identification and documentation of bias crimes," said the NGLTF testimony. "We also recommend the re-establishment of the hotline in conjunction with comprehensive training for all its operators, and a vigorous publicity and public education campaign promoting its use."

NGLTF encourages all people concerned about hate crime to call their Senators at (202)224-3121 and urge them to co-sponsor the bill or thank them for their sponsorship. In 1984, NGLTF conducted the first national study focusing exclusively on anti-gay violence. Two years before that, the Task Force created an anti-violence project to promote an official response to the plague of violence and harassment perpetrated against gays, lesbians, bisexuals and transgender people.

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The mission of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force is to build the political power of the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community from the ground up. We do this by training activists, organizing broad-based campaigns to defeat anti-LGBT referenda and advance pro-LGBT legislation, and by building the organizational capacity of our movement. Our Policy Institute, the movement’s premier think tank, provides research and policy analysis to support the struggle for complete equality and to counter right-wing lies. As part of a broader social justice movement, we work to create a nation that respects the diversity of human expression and identity and creates opportunity for all. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., we also have offices in New York City, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis and Cambridge.