Report: Anti-LGBT Murder Rate Increased 23 Percent in 2010

by Michael K. Lavers

National News Editor

Tuesday July 12, 2011

The National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs said on Tuesday, July 12, that the rate of reported anti-LGBT murders increased 23 percent in 2010.

NCAVP affiliates told reporters that the coalition documented 27 anti-LGBT murders last year-versus the 22 that were reported in 2009. NCAVP said the 2010 statistic is the second highest yearly total the coalition has ever documented.

Furthermore, the NCAVP found that 70 percent of known victims of anti-LGBT violence in 2010 were people of color. And 44 percent of them were transgender women.

"Transgender individuals and people of color face multiple forms of discrimination on the basis of race, gender identity and other factors, which can make them more vulnerable to severe violence," said MarŪa Carolina Morales from the San Francisco-based Community United Against Violence. "Additionally, the general public, law enforcement and the media may be less inclined to address, prevent and respond to violence against these communities, making this violence seem invisible and ignored."

Recent headlines certainly suggest violence against LGBT people and those with HIV/AIDS remains a serious problem.

Andrew Olacirequi received an 11-year prison sentence in December after he pleaded guilty to fatally shooting Chanel Larkin in the head on a Milwaukee street in May 2010. Prosecutors contend that Olacirequi murdered Larkin after he found out she was trans after he offered her $20 to perform a sex act.

A gay couple from Staten Island, N.Y., was attacked in a fast food restaurant near their home in July 2010. Less than three months later, seven gang members allegedly used anti-gay slurs against two teenagers before they brutally attacked them and a 30-year-old man inside a Bronx, N.Y., apartment. And a man carved "it" into a trans student's chest while he was inside a men's bathroom on the campus of California State University-Long Beach in April 2010.

President Barack Obama in Oct. 2009 signed Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act that, among other things, added sexual orientation and gender identity and expression to the federal hate crimes law. NCAVP reported that police classified only 31.8 percent of reported complaints as bias incidents or hate crimes in 2010, compared with 49 percent in 2009.

Responding to the deaths of 18 LGBT Puerto Ricans over the last year and a half; the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, the Human Rights Campaign and other advocacy groups last month urged Obama to publicly denounce these murders while on the island. Associate Attorney General Tom Perrelli told EDGE the day before Obama visited Puerto Rico that the Justice Department is "aware of these incidents and we are reviewing them." Pedro Julio Serrano of the Task Force told EDGE a few days later that the FBI had contacted him for information about the 18 murder victims.

With the passage of New York's marriage equality bill, the ongoing legal wrangling over California's Proposition 8 and the upcoming election cycle, activists remain concerned over increased anti-LGBT violence as the community becomes even more visible. Lisa Gilmore of the Center on Halsted Anti-Violence Project in Chicago noted this trend proved a reality during the 2000 presidential campaign.

"We are aware the polarization of discussions will lead to more anti-LGBTQH violence," added Sandhya Luther of the Colorado Anti-Violence Program in Denver.

Former New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino sparked widespread outrage last fall with a series of widely reported anti-gay comments he made on the campaign trail. Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann has come under similar scrutiny in recent weeks.

The NCAVP recommends politicians, celebrities and other high profile figures speak out against any candidate's anti-LGBT rhetoric. Ejeris Dixon of the New York City Anti-Violence stressed this repudiation sends a message that "anti-LGBT bias is not tolerated and is not okay."

Based in Washington, D.C., Michael K. Lavers has appeared in the New York Times, BBC, WNYC, Huffington Post, Village Voice, Advocate and other mainstream and LGBT media outlets. He is an unapologetic political junkie who thoroughly enjoys living inside the Beltway.