The FBI’s Uniform Crime Report for 1999 showed that, as overall serious crime continued to decline over the past year, hate crimes based on sexual orientation increased 4.5 percent between 1998 and 1999. “Somewhere in America every day at least three gay and lesbian Americans are being targeted for a crime just because they are gay,” said Human Rights Campaign Political Director Winnie Stachelberg. Hate crimes based on sexual orientation are the third highest category of bias-related crimes, after race and religion, and most statisticians and activists agree that these crimes are grossly underreported.
In June, the Senate voted 57-42 to include the Hate Crimes Prevention Act as an amendment to the defense authorization bill. The act would expand current federal hate crimes legislation to cover crimes based on gender, disability and sexual orientation. In September, the House voted 232-192 to keep the hate crimes language in place as part of the defense authorization bill. But the Republican leadership stripped that language from the bill while in conference committee negotiations, despite evidence that hate crimes legislation would improve law enforcement handling of bias-motivated crime.
Hate crimes law continues to be an issue in the presidential election, as Republican candidate George W. Bush attempts to mask his party’s stance and his own record on bias-motivated crimes based on sexual orientation. According to the Human Rights Campaign, 66 percent of voters would be less likely to vote for a candidate who does not support federal hate crimes legislation that includes race, religion, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Texas Governor George W. Bush, despite asserting that his state has an effective hate crimes law, opposed a 1998 measure to strengthen Texas’ statute and add sexual orientation precisely because it protected gays and lesbians.