The Florida State Attorney’s Office reported Monday that the number of hate crimes is down to its lowest level in Florida in the past decade. Broward County, home to the city of Fort Lauderdale and other heavily gay populated areas, tops the state’s list with the most hate-based crimes, however.
What this report fails to mention is the fact that while overall hate crime numbers are down in Florida, hate crimes against gays and lesbians in the most violent categories are up dramatically in our state. So while other groups might be making some small amount of headway (even that is debatable, since many think hate crimes are simply not being reported or prosecuted as much as they should be), the crimes towards the gay community are simply growing more violent and frequent.
It is not surprising that Broward County leads the state in hate crimes. You have people like Mayor Naugle, the Rev. O’Neal Dozier, and the late Rev James Kennedy of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church (all of whom have called LGBT people abominations and sinners, some of whom have even called for the execution of gays), based in Broward County. Of course their words of hate will incite violence! This past summer, Naugle and Dozier even appeared on the steps of and inside of City Hall together with “religious leaders” in camouflage outfits, saying they were going to “take the fight against perversion to the streets.”
We also have the statewide ban on gay adoption, as well as a proposed “marriage protection” amendment that will strip away domestic partnership rights (exactly as they are trying to do in Michigan). Also, gender identity and expression are not covered under the hate crimes laws, so those cases are never reported or counted.
All of these institutionalized and government-sanctioned forms of antigay bigotry and homophobia lead to these violent acts and crimes against the LGBT community. The atmosphere of hate says to people that LGBT people are less than human and it is therefore okay to hurt and kill them.
So forgive me if I don’t celebrate this “decline” in hate crimes in Florida as a victory. The reality of everyday life in this state is something completely different.