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Today is Saturday, November 24, 2007


HRC Decries Two Recent Hate Crimes Against GLBT People of Color

Expresses Deep Concern over Rising Incidents of Hate Violence Based on Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity, Race and Ethnicity

[WASHINGTON] Citing two recent murders believed to be motivated by discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity, the Human Rights Campaign expressed concern today over rising incidents of hate violence in this country. Sakia Gunn, an African-American teen-ager in New Jersey, was stabbed to death May 11 after telling a man she was a lesbian. A week earlier, Jessica (Horatio) Mercado, a Latina transgender woman, was found stabbed to death in her Connecticut apartment.

In light of the two recent tragedies, HRC expressed particular concern that people of color within the GLBT community may be particularly at risk for violence -- as hate crimes based on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and gender identity are all on the rise.

"On behalf of HRC, I would like to extend heartfelt sympathies to the Gunn and Mercado families and their loved ones. These tragedies underscore the importance of enacting meaningful federal hate crime laws that will help protect the GLBT community, and give local authorities the assistance they need to fully investigate hate violence," said HRC National Field Director Seth Kilbourn. "We need to do all we can to protect those at risk, and we should do it now. With hate violence in this country on the rise, HRC is particularly concerned about people of color within the GLBT community who may face discrimination and intolerance for their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or gender identity."

The Local Law Enforcement Enhancement Act (LLEEA) is a bipartisan bill currently in the Senate that would add real or perceived sexual orientation, gender and disability to federal hate crime laws, thus allowing the federal government greater leverage in providing assistance for the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes.

Newark, N.J., police have a suspect in custody in the Gunn case and are holding him on murder, weapons and bias intimidation charges. New Jersey is one of 28 states, along with the District of Columbia, that includes sexual orientation in its hate crimes statute.

No arrest has been made in the Mercado case. According to police reports, Mercado was stabbed twice in the neck in her New Haven, Conn., apartment, which was then set on fire in a possible attempt to cover up the crime. Some GLBT activist groups believe the crime may have motivated by discrimination or alleged "gay panic." Connecticut also includes sexual orientation in its hate crimes statute, but makes no clear reference to gender identity or expression. Only seven states and the District of Columbia have hate crimes statutes that specifically include gender identity.

"When a GLBT person of color is targeted for hate violence, it is difficult -- if not impossible -- to separate out race, sexual orientation or gender identity discrimination in the treatment of the victim and the victim's family and loved ones," said Kilbourn. "For example, in recent years, we have seen this pattern play out in the murders of J.R. Warren in West Virginia and Fred Martinez in Colorado. In both cases, the families thought that race, sexual orientation or gender identity were factors in the murder. There was also concern about how bias may have affected the investigation in each case and how law enforcement dealt with the families."

The FBI's 2001 Uniform Crime Reports, the most recent year that statistics are available for, showed that overall crime increased by only 2.1 percent in 2001. At the same time, reported hate crimes increased dramatically -- 20.7 percent. Reported hate crime based on sexual orientation comprised 14.3 percent of all hate crimes for 2001.

Since the Federal Bureau of Investigation began collecting hate crime statistics in 1991, more than 11,000 hate crimes based on sexual orientation have been reported. Since 1991, reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation have more than tripled, and increased 7.2 percent from 2000 to 2001, for a total of 1,393 incidents that year.

Comparatively, the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (NCAVP), a non-profit organization that tracks bias incidents against GLBT people, reported 1,943 incidents for 2001. The NCAVP also reports that incidents involving transgender bias rose 37 percent in 2002.

The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work and in the community.

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