Because of her skin color. Because of his religion. Because he’s disabled. Because she’s transgender.
Hate crimes happen when someone is targeted because of an important part of their identity. A person may be targeted because of their race, religion, or gender identity. Hate crimes seem senseless. But one thing is clear: People who commit hate crimes purposefully choose their victims from a place of bias and prejudice.
Hate crimes are different from other crimes because they strike fear into the hearts of entire communities. When we see on the news that a member of our group has been attacked for who they are, we worry that we are at risk. Hate crimes are especially frightening because they send a message to an entire group that they are under threat.
In Utah, we adopted our first hate crimes law in 1992. But it’s time to make the law stronger. Why? Utah’s law acknowledges when crimes like assault or theft have been committed. But our law doesn’t acknowledge when these crimes are motivated by bias or hate. In fact, Utah’s hate crimes law doesn’t mention the words “bias” or “prejudice” at all.
That’s why we’re fighting for a revised hate crimes statute that will protect all Utahans regardless of race, religion, nation of origin, ability, sexual orientation and gender identity. We’re advocating for the basic safety that all LGBTQ Utahns deserve.
How Do We Know Utah’s Hate Crimes Law Isn’t Working?
One of the reasons we know our law isn’t working is because no one in Utah has ever been convicted of a hate crime. Utahns may not feel safe reporting hate crimes when our laws ignore the reality that hate can lead to violence.
The law also leaves out key criteria that would protect vulnerable groups. This includes prosecuting crimes when they’re committed because of the victim’s:
- gender identity
- and sexual orientation
According to the Movement Advancement Project, only 17 states have laws that recognize when hate crimes are committed because of the victim’s gender identity or sexual orientation.
Advocates point out that it’s hard for prosecutors to convict people who’ve committed hate crimes in Utah. In turn, Utah’s weak law discourages victims from stepping forward and reporting when they’ve been victimized.
How Do Hate Crimes Affect Society?
Hate crimes make vulnerable groups feel unsafe. Because they’re motivated by hate, they’re often more violent than other crimes too.
Mass shootings are one example of hate crimes. Too often, shooters are motivated by hatred against a racial group or sexual orientation. The mass shooting at Pulse Orlando, a gay nightclub, might be the most visible example of a horrific hate crime against the LGBTQ community.
Hate crimes—and the fear they create among vulnerable groups—are a fact of life for too many LGBTQ people.
Hate Crimes & Intersections with Race, Gender, Income, & Sexual Orientation
Like most issues that touch the LGBTQ community, intersections between race, gender, and socio-economic status make different people feel more—or less—safe.
Because of racism, we know that LGBTQ people of color—for example—face more risk for violence and hate crimes. Trans women of color face racism, sexism, and transphobia all at once. Low-income trans people are also targeted with violence more often than other groups.
Hate crimes statistics show how important it is to protect groups that traditionally have had less privilege.
Hate Crimes Statistics & Data
In Utah, it’s difficult to get a full picture of how hate crimes impact our community. The FBI tracks data on hate crimes in its yearly Hate Crimes Report. But many states inaccurately report data—or don’t report at all.
For example, some states report zero hate crimes or just a few each year. But researchers know this isn’t right. How? Because neighboring states with roughly the same population report many more hate crimes. Worse, some police agencies just don’t collect or reveal the data they have.
We do know that hate crimes may happen more often in Utah than in other states. According to the FBI’s 2013 Hate Crimes Report, more hate crimes were reported in Utah than in other states with larger populations.
But it’s important to remember that hate crimes are usually underreported—or not reported at all. So, the number of hate crimes happening in our neighborhoods could be far higher than we realize.
Different states give more (or less) support to hate crimes victims. But Utah’s law can’t meaningfully support vulnerable communities. Our state’s law doesn’t even recognize when hate crimes are committed because of bias or prejudice. Our state’s policies discourage victims from stepping forward and reporting when they’ve been attacked.
Looking ahead, we’re hopeful that our state will develop laws that protect everyone. LGBTQ Utahns deserve justice and safety.
- Download Equailty Utah's information sheet on hate crimes
- FBI: Hate crime statistics
- HRC: Guide to State-Level Advocacy Following Enactment of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act
- Hate Crime Laws Map, Movement Advancement Project
- Anti-Defamation League’s 50 States Against Hate