Fourteen years after Matthew Shepherd was murdered because he was gay, and three years after President Obama signed the hate crimes law that bears Matthew’s name, the victimization of Americans based on their sexual orientation remains real, and on the rise.
According to the FBI’s December report, while the overall number of bias-motivated incidents decreased from 2010 to 2011, the number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation actually increased to 1300, up almost 3 percent from the previous year. The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) report mirrors this data, finding that the number of anti-LGBT murders in 2011 rose 11 percent from 2010. Thus, while reported hate crimes based on race, religion and ethnicity dropped, hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose, making it the second most common form of bias crime in America. In addition to the troubling hate crime statistics, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network’s 2011 National School Climate Survey reports over a third of LGBT students faced physical harassment and nearly 20 percent were assaulted in the last year.
Three pieces of previously introduced federal legislation deserve support. The Safe Schools Improvement Act addresses bullying prevention programs and requires states to collect and report information about bullying and harassment. The Student Non-Discrimination Act forbids schools from discriminating based on sexual orientation and gender identity and prohibits them from ignoring harassing behavior. And the Tyler Clementi Higher Education Anti-Harassment Act requires colleges and universities to recognize cyberbullying as a form of harassment and to fund anti-harassment programs.
Meanwhile, we must continue to combat violence and harassment against LGBT youth and adults. ADL training programs for students, educators, and administrators at all levels promote such efforts. GLAD’s Youth Project reaches out directly to LGBT and questioning youth — whether in schools, on the streets, or in the juvenile justice system, striving to ensure that LGBTQ youth and the children of LGBT parents are safe, welcomed, and treated equally with respect in every facet of life. There is ample room to not merely maintain, but intensify, programs aimed at making anti-LGBT bias socially unacceptable, and institutionally intolerable. via The Boston Globe