National NOW Times >> Spring, 2001 >> Article
Heart: Help Prevent Hate Crimes
By Catherine Bitney
To help create a better
understanding of hate crimes and how they effect the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgendered community, NOW activists across the country
took action this Valentine’s Day to speak out against hate crimes on the
day devoted to love.
In Washington, D.C., NOW activists joined
together in front of the Department of Justice to speak out against hate
crimes. The protest called for the expansion of federal hate crimes
protections to include crimes motivated by biases based upon gender,
sexual orientation and disability. In addition to sending an important
message about the protection from hate violence that all people deserve,
the action was a reminder to Attorney General John Ashcroft that he must
uphold the Constitution and vigorously enforce the law.
crimes, also called “hate crimes” or “malicious harassment,” are crimes in
which the offender intentionally selects a victim based on real or
perceived membership in a particular group. Bias crimes not only hurt the
individual victim, but also serve to intimidate and subjugate an entire
group, thereby disrupting the tranquility and safety of whole communities.
The federal statute currently used to prosecute hate violence in the U.S.
does not cover violence based on gender, sexual orientation or disability.
This statute is further limited by the requirement that the victim be
attacked while engaging in federally-protected activity, such as attending
school or voting.
On the day before Valentine’s Day, the FBI
released a hate crimes report which revealed that hate and bias-motivated
murders have reached a five-year high. The FBI report showed a rise in
bias-related crimes based on race, sexual orientation, disability,
ethnicity and religion. What was missing? Gender-bias crimes were not
To ensure that the rights and safety of all persons are
protected, NOW continues to demand that gender, sexual orientation and
disability be included in the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and that the
requirement of federally-protected activity be dropped. NOW urges members
to write their representatives at all levels, pressuring them to expand
current hate crimes laws to be inclusive of all groups.
years, NOW activists nationwide have been visible on Valentine’s Days in
support of equal marriage rights. Some have staged same-sex marriages,
rallied to protest marriage bans, delivered Valentine’s cards to senators
urging them to permit same-sex marriages, organized same-sex wedding
marches through college campuses and held public forums and street
performances to educate the community. This year, equal marriage rights
actions continued as NOW activists took on hate crimes
Did you know?
• Students who describe themselves as
lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgendered are five times more likely to miss
school because of feeling unsafe. 28% are forced to drop out.
National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, “Anti-Gay/Lesbian
Victimization,” New York, 1984.
• The vast majority of
survivors of anti-lesbian/gay violence — possibly more than 80% — never
report the incident, often due to fear of being “outed.”
Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project Annual Report, 1996.
85% of teachers oppose integrating lesbian, gay and bisexual themes in
“Making Schools Safe for Gay and Lesbian Youth:
Report of the Massachusetts Governor’s Commission on Gay and Lesbian
• Due to sexual orientation discrimination,
lesbians earn up to 14% less than their heterosexual female peers with
similar jobs, education, age and residence, according to a study by the
University of Maryland.
Badgett, M.V. Lee, “The Wage Effects of
Sexual Orientation Discrimination,” Industrial and Labor Relations Review,
• 42% of homeless youth identify as lesbian, gay or
Orion Center, Survey of Street Youth, Seattle, WA: Orion
• More than 84% of people polled oppose
employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation.
Conducted by Newsweek, January 1997.
• 75% of people committing
hate crimes are under age 30 — one in three are under 18 — and some of the
most pervasive anti-gay violence occurs in schools.
New York Gay and
Lesbian Anti-Violence Report, 1996.
• Lesbian, gay and bisexual
youth are at four times higher risk for suicide than their straight
Gibson P., LCSW, “Gay Male and Lesbian Youth Suicide,” Report
of the Secretary’s Task Force on Youth Suicide, U.S. Department of Health
and Human Services, 1989.
• A survey of 191 employers revealed
that 18% would fire, 27% would refuse to hire and 26% would refuse to
promote a person they perceived to be lesbian, gay or
Schatz and O’Hanlan, “Anti-Gay Discrimination in Medicine:
Results of a National Survey of Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Physicians,” San