For at least two decades — since President George H.W. Bush signed the Hate Crime Statistics Act on April 23, 1990 — hate crimes against homosexuals and perceived homosexuals have been a matter of national concern. Even at a time when most people disapproved of homosexuality, Americans increasingly supported giving the LGBT community the protections afforded by hate crime laws.
There’s a reason for that. Study after study has found that gays and lesbians face more violent hate crime than any other American minority and that the attacks on them are generally far more savage than other crimes. The terrible spectacle of Matthew Shepard, who was viciously beaten in 1998 and left to die in a remote part of Wyoming, highlighted the nature of the violence. By 1999, a Gallup poll found, 75% of Americans thought gays should be covered by hate crime laws.
Statistics gathered by the FBI have only served to confirm the violence that homosexuals face every day. Analyzing 14 years of hate crime data in this issue, the Intelligence Report found that gays and lesbians are more than twice as likely to be attacked in a violent hate crime as Jews or blacks; more than four times as likely as Muslims; and 14 times as likely as Latinos.
Despite this, there are still politicians, pundits and preachers who are perfectly willing to pour gasoline on the fires of anti-gay prejudice — men and women who do not hesitate to defame homosexuals, to spread proven falsehoods about them, even to suggest that they should die. The recent rash of suicides of young gays who were bullied or outed only seemed to increase the rancor of some of them.
Clint McCance, vice president of the Midland School District in northern Arkansas, responded to the teen suicides in Facebook postings that suggested it would be good “if they all commit suicide,” adding that he “enjoy[ed] the fact that they often give each other aids [sic] and die.” In Michigan, assistant state attorney general Andrew Shirvell maintained a blog just to harass a local gay student activist who he called “Satan’s representative” and said engaged in “sexual escapades at churches and children’s playgrounds” and was a “Nazi-like … racist.” In Alabama, Supreme Court Justice Tom Parker ran a reelection ad that said a federal judge who temporarily ordered the military to accept openly gay recruits should be added to a list of “America’s biggest security threats,” along with Al Qaeda terrorists.
These kinds of comments say more about the people who made them than the LGBT community. But, as we document in this issue, they often reflect or stem from false allegations that originate in the hard core of the anti-gay religious right.
No one is trying to force Christians or others who believe that homosexuality is wrong to abandon their beliefs. But believing that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin is an entirely different proposition than lying about gays molesting children or suggesting they should die. Surely, we can all agree that when any minority is demonized and attacked, it damages all our hopes for a civilized society.