With the recent passage of Hawaii’s new hate crimes statute, a majority of states in the U.S. for the first time have hate crimes laws that cover sexual orientation. Of the 26 laws that include sexual orientation, only 4 also include gender identity, which ensures protection for transgender individuals, and only 14 cover women as a class. Nineteen additional states have hate crimes laws that provide no protection for sexual orientation or gender identity; just five of them cover sex.
The National Gay and Lesbian Task Force reports that Hawaii is the first state to pass a hate crimes law covering sexual orientation this year, but that pending laws in Alabama, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Texas show some promise of passage. The Task Force warns, however, that the battle for gay and lesbian equality does not end here. Political Director Tim McFeeley says, “despite the fact that an overwhelming majority of the U.S. public supports hate crimes laws, Congress and George W Bush are silent on the issue.” There is currently no federal law protecting victims of hate crimes.