Hate crimes are committed when a perpetrator intentionally selects a victim based on the victim’s actual or perceived membership in a particular social group usually defined by characteristics like race, color, national origin, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. Hate crimes don’t just cause harm to the victim; they invoke community-wide fear and intimidate, terrorize and disrupt an entire segment of the population.
On October 28, 2009, The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was signed into law. The law updates existing federal hate crime statutes by expanding the legal definition of a hate crime to cover crimes committed because of a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The law also lifts restrictive requirements regarding engagement in a federally-protected activity and provides resources, including federal training and direct assistance, to law enforcement officials. On the state level, 45 states have enacted laws that address hate crimes.
There is strong public support for hate crime prevention and elimination from law enforcement, civil rights, civic and religious organizations, including Attorneys General for 22 states, the National Sheriffs’ Association, the International Association of Chiefs of Police and the U.S. Conference of Mayors.
The YWCA supports the enforcement of hate crime laws that protect people from harassment, violence and other crimes based on race, gender, gender identity, religion, ethnicity, age, disability, or sexual orientation.