Tennessee anti-gay hate crimes at ‘alarming’ level

A total of 56 anti-gay hate crimes were reported to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (TBI) in 2007, with one of those occurring on the campus of Vanderbilt University. The number is down slightly from 2006, which had 60 reported offenses. In 2005 the number of reported cases was 21.

“That’s a really high level,” said Christopher Sanders, president of the Tennessee Equality Project when asked to review the report by Out & About Newspaper. “The numbers are alarming.”

The report, released by the TBI today (which based the numbers on hate crimes on the required monthly reporting of local law enforcement agencies throughout 2007), showed an increase in the number of overall hate crimes committed from 2006 to 2007, with a slight drop in sexual bias offenses, which had a 6.6% decrease from 2006 to 2007. More than 44.8 percent of hate crime incidents occurred in West Tennessee. The report can be read here.

Sanders said numerous anti-gay hate crimes, including gender identity crimes, went unreported in 2007.

“We’re glad the overall number is slightly down,” Sanders said. “In realty it’s holding steady. The previous two years are almost triple of what was reported in 2005. There is a huge problem that has to be addressed.

“And”, he added. “We have no idea how many offenses go unreported. Plus,this report doesn’t track crimes based on gender identity and we know those occur. The Tennessee Hate Crime Statute only covers sexual orientation, not gender identity. and that’s what they base these reports on.”

The Vanderbilt University anti-gay hate crime took place on the Vanderbilt campus in Sept. 2007. Investigators said a student and his friend attacked two male students by hitting them in the head with their fists while they hurled anti-gay slurs. The attack has prompted the university to establish a full-time and fully staffed office to support the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community at Vanderbilt, which will open this fall (see related story).

As Out & About Newspaper reported in April 2007, Neal Moffitt Anthony, a McMinnville man was terrorized with death threats and harassment over his sexual orientation.

Out of some 30 “2007 anti-male homosexual bias” crimes, the majority occurred in Memphis, with 13 offenses being reported. Nashville - 2; Warren County – 5; Clarksville – 1; Cleveland – 1; Crossville – 2; Hendersonville – 1; Jackson – 1; Johnson City – 1; Knox County – 1; Maury County – 1.

For females, a total of 13 “anti-female homosexual bias” crimes were reported, with the majority being reported in Memphis, which reported eight. Bradley County – 2; Crossville – 1; Montgomery County – 1; Jackson – 1.

A total of seven “anti-homosexual bias” with no gender associated was reported across the state. Dickson, Johnson City, Knoxville, Lexington, and Nashville all reported one, Memphis reported two.

Other findings in the report:

  • Overall there was a slight increase in hate crimes against lesbians.
  • Some 23 of the 56 victims were African American;
  • Nine of the victims were under the age of 18.
  • 23 of the victims were 24-years-old or younger.

“The age range of the victims tells us that anti-gay hate crimes are occurring at the hands of the victim’s peers,” Sanders said. “It’s simplistic to say these issues disappear in younger generations, while we are seeing that is not the case.”

Sanders said TEP has a hate crimes report form on its Web site, and the TEP Foundation had secured a grant that will allow it to begin working with local District Attorneys to increase the prosecution of hate crimes.

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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