In Abuse, Bullying Stories

The Truth behind Hate Crimes Against Gays

hate crimes against gays

Discovering the truth behind Hate Crimes Against Gays…

CNN reported that on Oct. 28, 2009, President Obama signed one U.S. Federal law, a legislation named for two young men who were murdered with hate being at least part of the motivation. The bill, called the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was the first U.S. Federal hate crime legislation.

Matthew Shepard was a gay young man living in Wyoming. In October 1998, he was kidnapped, beaten, tied to a fence, set on fire, and left to die in freezing temperatures. Matthew Shepard died from exposure six days later. There is a controversy about whether part of the motivation of the crime was robbery with drugs (crystal meth) involved. There is no doubt, however, that the two men who both received two life sentences for the murder were the brutal killers of Matthew Shepard.

James Byrd, Jr. was an African-American man, living in Texas. In 1998, three men of whom two were affirmed white supremacists dragged him to death behind a pickup truck for three miles on an asphalt road. James was conscious for most of the time until he lost his right arm and he was decapitated by the sharp edge of the road. The men continued to drive, dragging the dead body for another mile. KHOU news in Texas reported that one of James Byrd, Jr.’s killers shows no remorse and said he would do it all again. This is proof of how deep this type of violent hatred goes in the minds of these psychotic criminals.

What is a Hate Crime?

The term “hate crime” first appeared in American news reports of violence directed at African-Americans, Asians, and Jewish people, during the 1980s in the United States. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officially defines a hate crime, (also called bias crime), as the following:

“A criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin.”

The term “hate crime” involved in America as a way of describing these crimes. Other countries have legislation related to similar types of crimes yet do not specifically refer to them as “hate crimes.” Under U.S. law, the victim of a hate crime may be a person, a business, an institution (such as a place for religious observances or a school), or the victim may be society.

Hate Speech

In 2006, the European Union outlawed hate speech on the Internet; however, such hate speech is protected under U.S. laws regarding freedom of speech. Public rallies with people carrying signs for the Nazi Party that say “Kill Jews”, Klu Klux Klan (KKK) white supremacist demonstrations shouting “Kill Niggers” and lunatic, supposedly Christian, preachers with their signs that say “God Hates Fags” are all protected expressions of freedom of speech in the United States. In the United States, it is permissible to say something at a rally or demonstration or publish it on the Internet, so these evil-minded people can promote their feelings of hatred. Nevertheless, it is quite a different thing and a serious crime to take any actions of harm motivated by such hatred.

Hate Crime Offenses

In the United States, the types of criminal offenses that could be hate crimes, depending on the perpetrators’ motivation to commit such crimes, are these:

  • aggravated assault
  • arson
  • burglary
  • intimidation
  • larceny-theft
  • manslaughter
  • motor vehicle theft
  • murder
  • rape
  • robbery
  • simple assault
  • vandalism

Penalties for U.S. Federal Law Hate Crime Convictions in the United States

Under 18 U.S. Code § 249 – Hate crime acts, if the hate crime is committed with the use of fire, any type of firearm or dangerous weapon or bomb, the penalty is a prison term up to ten years. When the hate crimes includes attempt to kidnap, kidnapping, attempted or actual aggravated sexual assault, attempt to kill or actual murder, the penalty is for any term of years or for life. There is no statute of limitations when death occurs and a person may be tried for a hate crime murder at any time without limitation.

The get a conviction for a hate crime under U.S. Federal law, the government must prove that the crime was committed because of actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or the disability of any person and the crime involved interstate or foreign activities. Other criminal statutes cover threats, bullying, harassment, and other hate-motivated activities. For crimes committed only in a single state, then that state’s laws are applied and prosecution occurs under that state’s jurisdiction.

According to the National Institute of Justice (NIJ), the first states in the U.S. to pass hate crime laws were Washington and Oregon in 1981. Today, besides the U.S. Federal law, forty-nine states have some form of hate crime laws. The types of groups protected under the state laws, the types of offenses covered, and the enhancements to prison sentences permitted for convictions when the crime is a hate crime, differ significantly between each state. The LGBT Task Force has a summary of state-by-state laws for hate crimes due to sexual orientation.


U.S. Federal Hate Crime Statistics for Sexual Orientation

According to the FBI, in 2009 there were 1,482 victims of hate crimes in FBI criminal cases due to sexual orientation, of these:

  • 817 were anti-male homosexual
  • 227 were anti-female homosexual
  • 391 were anti-homosexual
  • 26 were anti-bisexual
  • 21 were anti-heterosexual

These FBI figures are only for U.S. federal crimes. They do not include state crimes and do not include estimates of unreported crimes. It is interesting to note that heterosexual (straight) orientation is equally protected under the law and the FBI prosecutes anti-heterosexual hate crime.

U.S. Federal Hate Crimes Against Gays Statistics 

Since 2009, gay hate crimes due to sexual orientation are on the rise. In 2011, the FBI reported 1,572 hate crime against gays due to sexual orientation. This is an 18.7% increase. This was 20.4% of the total hate crimes for 2011. For hate crimes against gays, 56.7% came from anti-male homosexual bias, 29.6% came from anti-homosexual bias, and 11.1% came from anti-female homosexual bias.

Hate Crimes Against Gays

There is a long history of violence against LGBT people in the United States. According to the CNN news, when President Obama signed the Hate Crimes Law, he stated that the FBI received reports of over 12,000 hate crimes against people based on sexual orientation and hate crime against transgenders, which occurred in the past ten years.

The recent passing of legislation in many states, and then on the federal level, that legalized same-sex marriage coincided with the increased the number of recent hate crimes. Adding the state crime statistics to the federal statistics and considering the estimate of only one-third of the anti gay hate crimes make police reports, there are probably more than 5,000 gay hate crimes each year in the U.S. Many of the reported crimes result in death.

Motivation for Hate Crime Against Gays

NIJ research found that there are four basic motivations for committing gay hate crimes, which are:

1) Thrill-Seeker – 66% of the offenders in the study said they committed the gay hate crime for the fun of it. They rarely show remorse and would probably commit a similar crime again if not incarcerated.

2) Defense – 25% believe they were defending their neighborhood or themselves from gays they saw as undesirable intruders. A defense of “ gay panic ” used in some legal cases, is when the offender says they reacted violently to a gay sexual approach that was unwanted.

3) Retaliatory – 8% said the hate crime gay was in response to another real or perceived hate crime.

4) Mission – 1% said they felt these crimes were their life’s mission and they frequently say such things as, “ I hate gay people. ”

Famous Gay Hate Crimes

Of the more than twelve thousand documented gay hate crimes that occurred in the past decade, many were extremely brutal and resulted in death. One of the most famous is the murder of Matthew Shepard, already covered at the beginning of this article. Others are equally horrific and this information may be disturbing to some readers. We close this discussion with some examples of gay hate crimes in memory of those who have suffered and died. These were real human beings not just statistics.

There is a long list of violence against LGBT people, which space here does not permit including. Here are three examples of people killed, because they were gay, transgender, or lesbian:

Paul Broussard – Killed July 4, 1991

Ten young men attacked this 27-year-old Houston man and two friends as they left a gay bar. The attackers used nail-studded wood planks, a knife, and kicked the gay men with boots that were steel-toed. Paul Broussard was severely beaten, kicked, and stabbed. He died a few hours later. All ten men received convictions.

In the trial testimony, the gang of ten admitted they came to Houston for the expressed purpose of “beating some queers.” The one who admitted doing the stabbing, which the coroner said was the cause of death, got a 45-year sentence. He was released from prison on parole in 2011 after serving less than half his sentence. All the other nine gang members have long ago been released.

This killing prompted the largest civil disobedience protest in Houston’s history and led to the passing of the Texas hate-crime legislation a decade later, which still does not cover transgender persons.

Gwen Amber Rose Araujo – Killed Oct. 3, 2002

This 17-year old from Newark, CA (Silicon Valley area) was transgender but was not “out” to her friends. They all thought Araujo was biological female. At a party, another girl discovered she was transgender. Four young men at the party, ages 19 to 22, beat her, cut her face, hit her on the head with can of food, a frying pan and a shovel, then hogtied her, and choked her to death. They took the dead body in a pickup truck and dumped it 100 miles away in the foothills.

No one from the party reported the crime and even after many days of her mother’s pleading the media would not report she was missing. The police found the body when one of the men confessed to the crime. A transgender panic defense was used to reduce the charge of first-degree murder because Araujo allegedly had oral or anal sex with two of the men, a few weeks before the party. The allegations were never proven only argued by defense legal counsel as motivation for the crime. California had hate crime laws at that time but the enhancements of being a hate crime where not applied in the sentencing. Two were convicted of second-degree murder for a period of 15-years to life. The other man got an 11-year sentence for involuntary manslaughter, and the fourth received only six-years.

Gwen’s mother was able to get Araujo’s name legally changed to Gwen Amber Rose Araujo after her death. The Gwen Araujo Justice for Victims Act (AB 1160) became a California law on September 28, 2006. It was America’s first law regarding panic defenses. This law prohibits using a bias (“panic”) defense to reduce culpability for a crime committed in California.

Sakia Gunn – Killed May 11, 2003

This 15-year old African-American self-identified “butch” lesbian girl from Newark, NJ was waiting with her girlfriend at a bus stop when two black men pulled up in a car and asked them to get in the car to have sex with them. The young women told the men they had no sexual interest in them, because they were gay. One of the men got out of the car and attacked Sakia by choking her. Sakia’s girlfriend tried to help with the fight. Sakai strongly resisted the attack, and then the man stabbed her. Sakia died on the way to the hospital, or shortly after arrival, from the stab wounds to her chest.

The murderer turned himself into police a few days after the crime. Under a plea bargain agreement, the murder charges reduced to aggravated manslaughter and his sentence was twenty-years.

More than 2,500 people attended Sakia’ funeral. Her death brought awareness to problem with media coverage, because the coverage of her death was so sparse in the media. This sparked community outrage and led to the building of a gay and lesbian community center, more police patrols to protect LGBT people, and the creation of a LGBT advisory council for the mayor.

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