Hate Crimes

Find Your State

Know the laws in your state that protect LGBT people and people living with HIV.


LGBTQ people experience high rates of homophobic and transphobic violence, with serious emotional, physical, financial, and social impacts.  The Trump Administration has (1) instituted discriminatory policies towards Muslim people, undocumented people, and people of color through the DOJ hate crime task force and (2) affirmatively eliminated protections against discrimination for LGBTQ people, and affirmatively seeking out opportunities to block the development of laws to protect LGBTQ people; thus, increasing the likelihood of violence against the community.

Since the beginning of Trump Administration, the country has witnessed an escalation of violence targeting marginalized communities.  According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs’ “Crisis of Hate” report, 2017 was the deadliest year in recent history for LGBTQ+ people in the United States.[108]  Hate violence is generally understood to include any violent act motivated partially or solely by one or more of the target’s actual or perceived identities.[109]  At the federal level, the FBI defines, for statistical purposes, a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”[110]  At the state level, a number of states have enacted hate crime legislation that includes enhanced penalties.[111]  After receiving pressure from Congress[112] and the public,[113] the DOJ created a Hate Crimes Subcommittee, responsible for developing recommendations for addressing hate crimes as part of the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety. 

Misuse of the DOJ Hate Crimes Subcommittee

The Trump Administration has instituted discriminatory policies towards Muslim people, undocumented people, and people of color.  Through the Task Force on Crime Reduction and Public Safety and its Hate Crimes Subcommittee, Attorney General Sessions will continue to implement the Administration’s agenda to increase policing and criminalization of our communities, and to undermine the civil rights and safety of LGBTQ people.[114]

Affirmative Steps to Inhibit Protections of LGBTQ People

Through its actions, the Trump Administration continues to be openly hostile toward LGBT people by eliminating civil rights protections,[115] and by affirmatively seeking out opportunities to block the development of laws to protect LGBTQ people.[116]  These efforts are likely to fuel, rather than deter, homophobic and transphobic violence.  The DOJ must acknowledge, document, and denounce the high rates of bias-motivated violence against LGBTQ and other marginalized communities—including by law enforcement officers, school resource officers, guards and other penal officials.  Focusing on prosecutions and enhanced penalties rather than working to increase civil rights protections in response to violence, while simultaneously promoting discrimination against LGBTQ people, and particularly transgender individuals, is misguided and not in line with what LGBTQ communities and advocates demand.


Even in states where legislation exists which explicitly addresses homophobic and transphobic violence and is inclusive of sexual orientation and gender identity, many LGBTQ people, particularly LGBTQ people of color, immigrants, and transgender people, do not feel comfortable interacting with law enforcement for fear of experiencing further discrimination and violence.  Research shows that when LGBTQ people do report violence to police, they have experienced discriminatory treatment, hostility, and in some instances, physical violence.[117]  Because of this, for some LGBTQ people who have experienced homophobic or transphobic violence, the criminal legal system is not a safe or viable option.  For example, according to the 2015 US Transgender Survey, a majority (57%) of transgender respondents said that they would not be comfortable calling the police for help.[118]

Many advocates who work on violence against LGBTQ and HIV affected communities take the position that hate crimes laws have more of a negative than a positive impact, particularly on communities of color.  They call instead for resources that offer community solutions to violence.  These solutions do not include policing, or require engagement with the criminal legal system.  “Hate crime prevention” plans that focus exclusively on increasing resources to law enforcement without any attempt to acknowledge, let alone address, violence and biases against marginalized communities within the criminal legal system merely perpetuate systemic inequities while doing little to prevent harm or support victims.


State and local advocates can deploy a number of strategies to protect targeted communities from the impacts of these federal administrative and legislative initiatives, including:

  • Educating community members on civil rights protections and enforcing civil rights protections to prevent homophobic and transphobic violence;
  • Measuring progress on reducing homophobic and transphobic violence based on the resources available to communities for prevention, increased protections and efforts to enforce protections in employment, education, housing, and public accommodations;
  • Advocating for the development and implementation of alternative accountability mechanisms that do not rely on the participation of law enforcement; and
  • Investing in bystander intervention programs and other community safety models that will allow communities to intervene and respond to violence effectively.  Individuals and groups trained to use these models not only effectively intervene when violence is happening, but also cause a cultural shift by having communities take responsibility for biases that exist within that community.
[108] Emily Waters et al. A Crisis of Hate: A Report on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer Hate Violent Homicides in 2017, Nat’l Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs (2018), http://avp.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/01/a-crisis-of-hate-january-release-12218.pdf.
[109] Kan. City Anti-Violence Proj., Hate Crimes, http://www.kcavp.org/home/services/hate-crimes.
[111] For more information about statewide hate crime legislation, go to http://www.lgbtmap.org/equality-maps/hate_crime_laws.
[112] Letter from Sen. Baldwin et al. to Atty’ Gen. Jeff Sessions (Mar. 2, 2017), available at https://www.baldwin.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/030217%20Letter%20to%20AG%20Sessions%20re%20Hate%20Crimes.pdf.
[113] Press Release, The Leadership Conf. on Civ. and Human Rts., 156 Civil and Human Rights Groups Call for Stronger Response to Hate Incidents (Mar. 10, 2017) available at  http://civilrights.org/156-civil-and-human-rights-groups-call-for-stronger-response-to-hate-incidents/.
[114] See supra Policing Section
[115] Sandhya Somashekhar et al., Trump administration rolls back protections for transgender students, Wash. Post (Feb. 22, 2017), available at https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/trump-administration-rolls-back-protections-for-transgender-students/2017/02/22/550a83b4-f913-11e6-bf01-d47f8cf9b643_story.html?utm_term=.be09a11a5af7.
[116] See Mark Joseph Stern, Department of Wackadoodle, The DOJ’s new anti-gay legal posture just got shut down in federal court, Slate (Sept. 26, 2017), available at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/09/the_doj_s_new_anti_gay_legal_posture_just_got_shut_down_in_federal_court.html (“The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission decided in 2015 that Title VII’s ban on sex discrimination does protect gay employees. Under President Barack Obama, the Justice Department took no position on this question. But in late July, Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ DOJ unexpectedly filed an amicus brief in Zarda arguing that Title VII does not protect gay people.”) (emphasis in original); see also Mark Joseph Stern, Cake Wreck, The Trump administration’s brief in the Supreme Court’s anti-gay baker case is cynical, dishonest, and embarrassing, Slate (Sept. 8, 2017), available at http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2017/09/doj_s_cynical_embarrassing_brief_in_the_supreme_court_s_anti_gay_baker_case.html (“Carving out a First Amendment exception to nondiscrimination laws would blow a hole through the modern civil rights regime, fatally undermining legal protections for all minority groups.”).
[117] Osman Ahmed & Chai Jindasurat, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Hate Violence in 2013, Nat’l Coal. of Anti-Violence Programs, (2014), https://avp.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/2013_ncavp_hvreport_final.pdf.
[118] Sandy E. James, et al., The Report of the 2015 U.S. Transgender Survey: Executive Summary, Nat’l. Ctr. for Transgender Equal, 115 (Dec. 2016), https://transequality.org/sites/default/files/docs/usts/USTS-Executive-Summary-Dec17.pdf.