Hate crimes against gays and lesbians are on the rise in America, according to the latest report from the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Released earlier today, the FBI's annual Hate Crime Statistics report for 2011 shows crimes targeting people on the basis of their perceived sexual orientation increased slightly from 2010.
Of the 6,216 reported hate crimes with one motivator, 20.8 percent resulted because of a person’s perceived sexual orientation. Although reported "single-bias" hate crimes were down from 6,624 in 2010, incidents resulting from sexual orientation bias were up from 19.3 percent in 2010.
The increase in crimes against those perceived to be gay or lesbian made sexual orientation bias incidents the second most common hate crime in 2011 for the first time.
Racial bias incidents continue to make up a majority of reported hate crimes, with 46.9 percent reported in 2011. However, sexual orientation bias hate crimes now trump religious bias (19.8 percent), ethnicity/national origin bias (11.6 percent) and disability bias (0.9 percent) hate crimes.
Hate crime statistics are submitted to the FBI by local law enforcement agencies voluntarily, so the actual number of incidents is likely higher.
The report does not take into account crimes committed on the basis of gender identity, although that will soon change. Under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the FBI will add new bias categories of gender and gender identity and begin collecting data to be released in 2014.
While the number of reported hate crimes increased by just 16 from the previous year, Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin said the report is a reminder of the threats that still come with being gay.
"The 2011 FBI hate crimes data is a sad reminder that even as we make great strides toward equality under the law, LGBT people in face dangers in America," Griffin said in a statement. "We must rid our country of the violence that has devastated our community for far too long."
Griffin commended coming efforts to take into account crimes committed against transgender Americans, "who face violence at alarming and disproportionate rates."
[Chart: Breakdown of 2011 reported hate crimes (Courtesy of the FBI).]