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Hate Crimes Down; Gays Still at Risk

Hate Crimes Down; Gays Still at Risk


U.S. hate crimes declined overall in 2009, according to a new FBI report, as did those motivated by bias against the victim's sexual orientation -- but those attacks represented an increased percentage of total hate crimes, and long-term numbers indicate gays remain particularly vulnerable.

According to the FBI's Hate Crimes Statistics, 2009, released Monday, participating law enforcement agencies around the nation reported 6,604 bias-related crimes involving 8,336 victims (some crimes involve multiple victims), down from 7,783 incidents and 9,691 victims in 2008. This drop came even though the number of agencies participating increased, from 13,690 to 14,222.

There were 1,436 crimes motivated by sexual orientation reported in 2009, down from 1,617 in 2008. These crimes did represent a larger percentage of hate crimes in 2009 than in the previous year -- 18.5% versus 16.7%. The number of victims was 1,482 in 2009, 1,706 the previous year.

The FBI notes that as a result of last year's passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the bureau has begun gathering data on crimes motivated by actual or perceived gender and gender identity, and will incorporate that into future reports.

Gays remain more likely to be the target of hate crimes than other minorities, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which fights hate groups and bias crimes. The winter issue of the center's Intelligence Report, released Monday to coincide with the FBI report, analyzed hate-crimes data from 1995 through 2008 and found that people who are gay or perceived to be are twice as likely to be the victim of a violent hate crime as African-Americans or Jews, more than four times as likely as Muslims, and 14 times as likely as Latinos.

Antigay activists are becoming more extreme in the face of advances by LGBT people, said Mark Potok, editor of Intelligence Report, which in the winter issue also profiles 18 virulently antigay organizations and debunks the myths they spread, such as that gays helped orchestrate the Holocaust.

"As Americans become more accepting of homosexuals, the most extreme elements of the antigay movement are digging in their heels and continuing to defame gays and lesbians with falsehoods that grow more incendiary by the day," Potok said. "The leaders of this movement may deny it, but it seems clear that their demonization of homosexuals plays a role in fomenting the violence, hatred, and bullying we're seeing."

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