As in previous years, FBI hate crime data shows that attacks founded on sexual orientation continue to be characterized by a high level of violence, with a higher proportion of personal assaults than in other categories of hate crime. Nongovernmental monitors report a substantial increase in 2007 of violent attacks on lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons. Although 31 states and the District of Colombia have hate crime statutes that cover violence based on sexual orientation bias (homophobia), neither sexual orientation nor gender identity bias is covered in the federal laws on bias-motivated violent crimes. Thus, federal resources are not available to help local law enforcement agencies confront these crimes.
In FBI statistics for 2006 for single bias incidents, 15.5 percent resulted from sexual orientation bias (1,195 incidents with 1,472 victims, constituting 1,415 offences). Of the total incidents, 747 were motivated by antimale homosexual bias (62.2 percent) and 163 by antifemale homosexual bias (13.6 percent), with 238 classed simply as antihomosexual (20.7 percent). There were 21 incidents classed as antibisexual and 26 as antiheterosexual. As in past reports, there was a high proportion of personal violence in the reported crimes. Of 1,415 offences, there were 267 cases of aggravated assault and 395 of simple assault (and 338 of intimidation); crimes against persons totaled 1,004, or nearly 71 percent. This compares to 60 percent of crimes against persons out of all reported hate crime offenses.
In California, the annual report of the Los Angeles County’s Commission on Human Relations found that in 2007 the second largest group of hate crimes (after those motivated by racism or ethnicity) was motivated by sexual orientation, with 111 cases reported. This was a 9 percent increase over 2006. The same report, in distinguishing those crimes involving violence, found that “all of the crimes targeting transgender victims (100%) were violent, followed by 76% of sexual orientation” in comparison to 71 percent of racial and 25 percent of religious crimes. Statistics for the State of California for 2007 also show that the second largest number of incidents and offenses was motivated by sexual orientation bias, with a rise to 263 incidents, or 18.4 percent of the total. This represented an increase of 6.9 percent, from 246 in 2006 to 263 in 2007.
The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP) monitors sexual orientation bias crimes, producing reports on “bias-motivated incidents targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ).” In the annual report covering 2007, the NCAVP cited 2,430 victims of “anti-LGBTQ” crimes, representing a 24 percent increase in the total number of victims reported in 2006. Reported murders more than doubled, from 10 in 2006 to 21, the third highest murder rate in the 10 years NCAVP has been doing the survey.
Among the many factors assessed in the NCAVP statistics is the police response, an important factor underlying the readiness of victims of hate crimes to seek police assistance. Police were known to have been called in 528 (29 percent) of the total cases reported to NCAVP in 2007. In these cases, “just over 46 percent of victims identified the law enforcement they interacted with as ‘courteous’ (176). ‘Indifferent’ was the attitude descriptor offered by 140 victims (37 percent). Forty two victims (11 percent) described police as ‘verbally abusive.’ Physical abuse from police was reported by 21 victims, with 18 of them identifying physical abuse happening in tandem with slurs.”
In some of the most serious cases, individuals suffered brutal, lethal attacks. Some assaults included sexual abuse. Although no sexual orientation bias murders were acknowledged in 2006 in the FBI’s latest report, legal developments in 2007 included convictions for several such crimes.
- In Cicero, Illinois, in December 2007, an attacker assaulted, beat, and sodomized a gay man. Felipe Rivera, 43, was charged with sexual assault and a hate crime. Police said he had made a video-taped confession to the crime in which he said “he did this because he hates gay people and ‘this is what you get.’”
The following four murders motivated by sexual orientation bias were among those reported in 2007—although it is not known whether the FBI’s forthcoming report on 2007 will reflect these crimes.
- On March 14, 2007, in Wahneta, Florida, 25-year-old Ryan Keith Skipper was brutally murdered because he was gay. Skipper’s body—with 20 stab wounds and a slit throat—was found less than two miles from his home. William David Brown, Jr., aged 20, and Joseph Eli Bearden, aged 21, were later indicted on robbery and first-degree murder charges. According to a sheriff’s department affidavit, Ryan’s murder should be considered a hate crime since one of the men acknowledged the bias motivation. The civil rights group Equality Florida said that “antigay hate crimes are at their highest level ever in the state and second only to racist attacks in overall numbers.” The office of Florida’s Attorney General reportedly confirmed that “hate crimes targeting LGBT Floridians have increased 33 percent in the most violent categories during the two most recently reported years.”
- On February 13, 2007 in Detroit, Michigan, 72-year-old Andrew Anthos, was riding a bus home and a stranger, apparently offended that Anthos was singing, asked Anthos if he was gay, followed him off a bus, and beat him with a pipe. Anthos died on February 23 after 10 days in a coma. Witnesses say the assailant, who had not been apprehended as of mid-July 2008, spewed antigay expletives in the course of the attack.
- On May 12, 2007, in Brooklyn, New York, 20-year-old Roberto Duncanson was stabbed to death by a teenager who barraged Duncanson with homophobic slurs and stabbed him four times. Five days later, 17-year-old Omar Willock was arrested and indicted on the charge of second-degree murder as a hate crime, which carries penalties of up to 25 years to life in prison.
- On June 4, 2007, in Montrose, Texas, Kenneth Cummings Jr., 46, was killed at his home. His body was found on June 16, burned and buried in a shallow grave on a ranch near San Antonio. The suspect, who told prosecutors that he killed Cummings because the victim was a homosexual, was being held on murder charges.
Progress was made in a number of cases of killings in previous years. In New York City, in November, 2007, a court sentenced three men to long prison sentences for manslaughter as a hate crime in the death of Michael Sandy, a gay man who was lured to a remote part of Brooklyn, attacked, and chased into a highway where he was struck by a vehicle.
Among the most serious attacks reported were crimes motivated by bias based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Some of these cases involved young students subject to ridicule in schools.
- On February 12, 2008, in Oxnard, California, a classmate shot 15-year-old Lawrence King at E.O. Green Junior High School. King was pronounced brain-dead the following afternoon and was subsequently taken off of life support. According to his classmates, King did not conform to gender norms, often wearing makeup and jewelry to school. Prosecutors charged 14-year-old Brandon McInerney with the premeditated murder.
- In July, 2008, in Greeley, Colorado, a man attacked and murdered a transgender woman, 20-year-old Justin Zapata. Prosecutors said in August that 31-year-old Allen Ray Andrade would face first-degree murder and hate crime charges.
- On June 10, 2006 in New York City, four young men attacked and beat 39-year-old singer and recording artist Kevin Aviance, who cross-dresses for performances, while shouting antigay slurs. Two men were sentenced for assault as a hate crime, and two others to gang assault; sentences ranged from six to 15 years imprisonment.
- In November 2007, in Redwood City, California, a vandal scrawled threatening antigay messages on the car and residence of a transgender woman; a 25-year-old woman was charged with a crime.
In June 2008, in Macon County, Illinois, a man shouted homophobic slurs at his neighbors, a gay couple, while threatening them with a sword. He was found guilty of threatening actions as a hate crime.
- In Worcester, Massachusetts, in April 2008, a man and his adult children reportedly “forced their way into a man’s residence, struck him and used antigay epithets.” A 67-year-old, his daughter and his son were charged with “assault with intent to intimidate based on race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability.”