The FBI has released 2011's data on hate crimes in the United States. Sexual orientation bias made up just over %20 of reported hate crimes, the second largest percentage, after racial bias. Sexual orientation was the only category for which the rate of hate crimes increased in 2011. The FBI will add Gender identity as a discrete category in 2013, and the refined data will be available in 2014.
Whenever the subject of "hate crimes" laws come up, inevitably the criticism is made that "all crimes are hate crimes" and/or that hate crimes law in some way or another makes thoughts criminal, rather than simply actions. I see this argument made all the time, and there are some big problems with it:
- First off "all crimes are hate crimes" is a blatantly false statement. There are many other kinds of crimes: crimes of desperation: e.g. convenience store robbery goes wrong; crimes of greed: Bernie Madoff didn't "hate" anyone; crimes of selfishness/negligence: e.g. when drunk driver kills family of five it isn't because the driver "hated" them; crimes of passion; crimes of rebellion: e.g. graffiti; crimes of random violence: e.g. shooting sprees, pushing strangers into an oncoming train; and I'm sure there are plenty I'm missing.
- The hate crime designation is designed in part to be used in a situation where the actual crime targets far more than the specific victim. When a Jewish synagog is graffitied with swastikas, or a Muslim mosque is torched, it's isn't the building that's the real victim, or the intended target. Rather the attack is against the entire community of people who identify with what those buildings represent. Even if someone goes to a different synagog or mosque in the area, they are likely to still feel threatened or fearful. To quote U.S. Attorney McQuade:
A hate crime is different than a simple assault because it is an attack on not just one individual victim, but an attack on everyone who shares a particular characteristic...
- Likewise when a group of thugs decide to go "smear the queer" and choose to attack a random person walking out of a gay bar, their hate and violence has nothing to do with that individual, but rather their perception of that individual as belonging to a whole category of people (they are often wrong btw). By attacking someone because they think that person is gay, they are violating a whole category of people at once.
- Another important thing to understand about the intent behind "hate crimes" law is that it empowers the state or federal government to intervene in cases where a crime may not be pursued by local authorities because of the demographic the victim belongs to. There are plenty of places in the country where women, racial minorities, religious minorities, gender & sexual minorities, and other demographics are unpopular, and as a result, local police may not exert themselves to protect them.
- Finally, I'm not sure how "hate crimes" law creates thought crimes. As a rule these laws are applied extremely narrowly, and only when intent is unassailable. Witness that when my neighbor shot the hell out of my partner's car and told the police that it was because we were faggots, the state ended up not pursuing hate crimes charges due to him having been intoxicated at the time of his statement. Although people who knew him, not to mention the arresting officers, were convinced he attacked us because of our sexual orientation, the legal bar to prove "hate crime" is deliberately set very high, and there was concern that the case wouldn't clear it.
Oh, and if you're reading this I'm guessing the world hasn't ended. In which case, here are some things you need to know today: