Sexual Hate Crimes

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The FBI shows [see below] that hate crimes based on sexual orientation are the third most prevalent type. That’s why it doesn’t make sense that George Bush vetoed the Matthew Shepard Act when it landed on his desk in 2007. This legislation would have protected people from hate crimes on the basis of perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

For those who don’t know the story, Matthew Shepard, age 21, was tied to a fence post, tortured and beaten and left for dead by two other young men. He was found 18 hours later and was pronounced dead five days later. The defense tried to use a “gay-panic” defense as a way to circumvent any affiliation with hate crimes, but the fact is, the perpetrators couldn’t have been prosecuted for a hate crime anyway, because Wyoming didn’t recognize sexual orientation as one of the “conditions” that precipitates hate crimes. It still doesn’t. (It is not the only state that does not have such legislation; at last count there were 18 more who have ignored the importance of legislating sexual hate crimes.) Huffington Post article about this here.

This is not the only time a person has been beaten or murdered for having an sexual orientation that is considered by some to be deviant. Some well-known victims include Brandon Teena and Angie Zapata. How many more have to die before sexual hate crimes will be prosecutable nation-wide?

An FBI 2008 press release about hate crimes in general reported that “of the 7,621 single-bias incidents [in 2007], 50.8 percent were motivated by a racial bias, 18.4 percent were motivated by a religious bias, 16.6 percent were motivated by a sexual orientation bias, and 13.2 percent were motivated by an ethnicity/national origin bias. One percent involved a bias against a disability.”

The only reason I can think of why President Bush would have vetoed the Matthew Shepard Act is because he thinks violence against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender individuals is justifiable. And that is just plain sick.

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Ellen Keim

Ellen is a freelance writer, essayist and copy editor, living with three cats and a husband in Columbus, OH.

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