David Shelton, blogging at Skipping to the Piccolo, has a great analysis of the recently released FBI 2006 Hate Crimes statistics, including this on crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity:
For the first time in a major report, we’ve been given data that clearly lists crimes that were committed based on a motivation of the victims’ sexual orientation. Unfortunately, gender identity isn’t included in the data, but rather is combined with the others. There were nearly 1500 incidents across the country last year, including at least two right here in Clarksville. Unlike our Hispanic/Latino neighbors, those of us that are gay or lesbian have absolutely no protection whatsoever when it comes to hate crimes.
Some have said “show me how people are attacked because they’re gay.” Well, we have that now. All of this goes on while the Matthew Shepard bill languishes in a Senate committee, and is in jeopardy of being killed outright. For the record, the Matthew Shepard bill is a bill that would provide federal resources to investigate and prosecute hate crimes, and would include sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of hate crimes.
Now that we know there are real numbers, this should be a clear indicator that it’s time to add sexual orientation and gender identity to non-discrimination clauses everywhere (including in Clarksville’s new charter). I’ve always been an advocate for complete equality, so this is just the right thing to do. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 has been updated a few times since its passing, and has since added age and disability to its protections. Several states have added sexual orientation to their civil rights laws, and it’s time for Tennessee to do the same.
Many conservatives are afraid that such an addition would force churches to hire gay people or would force a Christian landlord to allow two men to rent a one-bedroom apartment they own. A person’s religion has little to do with their sexual orientation or their perceived sexual orientation. Some people won’t hire someone just because they might look a little effeminate. At the moment, that’s perfectly legal. It doesn’t mean it’s right.
Can someone please tell me what’s “Christian” about denying a qualified person a job, or kicking a couple out on the street because they might be gay? “Well, it’s behavior,” some say. I tell you what. If you see someone having sex on the job, then that’s a different story. But seriously… how many of us actually engage in sexual activity in the work place? That’s just a rhetorical question, by the way; I really don’t want to know.
Let me be perfectly clear: By sexual orientation, I’m referring to whether a person is sexually attracted to members of their own sex, and might engage in healthy consenting relationships among adults. Gender identity disorder (GID) is a legitimate diagnosis for persons who have the firm belief that they are the wrong physical sex. Neither of these impacts on a person’s ability to do their job or to form healthy relationships. Interestingly, GID is the only psychological disorder that has a proven cure: gender reassignment surgery and hormone therapy.
No matter how we slice it or how we sugarcoat it with Bible verses or doctrines, discrimination is wrong. Hate crimes are clearly committed against people for their sexual orientation, and as of right now, there is zero federal protection for them. Hate crimes aren’t listed by how much someone hates another group, but rather by their motivation in a crime they’ve committed. No one is talking about “thought police.” We simply need to have protections in place that will allow local law enforcement agencies to prosecute and investigate properly these incidents which are all-too-often swept under the rug.
As vocal as many Christian leaders have been in making their concerns about expanding hate crime protections known, they have been conspicuously silent when it comes to suggesting ways to put an end to these attacks apart from legislation like the Matthew Shepherd Act. Perhaps it’s time to think about one’s neighbor instead of oneself for a change. It seems to me like the Christian thing to do.