Hate crimes and intolerance inspire new support services for LGBT communities
Note: Equality Florida worked with the Florida Independent to highlight the disproportionate impact hate crimes have on Florida's LGBT community. The article also points out that anti-LGBT hate crimes, as a percentage of all hate crimes in Florida, are at there highest level ever.
By Marcos Restrepo | 07.20.11 | 4:29 pm
Florida LGBT advocates tell The Florida Independent that despite efforts to fill the lack of social services for their communities, problems like bullying, underreported hate crimes and homeless youth continue to rise.
The Zebra Coalition, a nonprofit based in Orlando that offers support and services to LGBT youth, is launching a support group on Wednesday evenings to help local youth deal with legal rights, family, employment, education and other issues.
Anthony Armstrong, executive director of the group, tells the Independent that the most pressing issues for Zebra clients start with a lack of support at home, in school or among friends. This translates into a discomfort that gives them a bad start in life. Armstrong explains that Zebra works with young people from age 13 to 24, adding that they say there is no one listening with a non-judgmental attitude.
According to Armstrong, issues that most of us take for granted — jobs, where to go to school, safety — are of major concern for young people who seek support at Zebra, especially for transgender youth.
A new National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs report (.pdf), “Hate Violence Against Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and HIV-Affected Communities in the United States in 2010,” released last week, shows that hate violence against the LGBT and HIV-affected communities rose 13 percent in the U.S. last year; among those reporting, transgender people and people of color faced the most severe hate violence.
The Florida attorney general’s office also issues a yearly hate crime report that contains data reported by local law enforcement agencies throughout the state to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The reports show that in 2007 there were 28 hate crimes motivated by a person’s sexual orientation, 35 in 2008 and 33 in 2009. These crimes include aggravated assault, simple assault, intimidation, robbery, burglary, vandalism and the destruction of property. The 2007 report includes one murder considered a hate crime due to the victim’s sexual orientation.
The 2009 report also shows that a little more than 22 percent of reported hate crimes were motivated by sexual orientation, which represents the highest percentage of the total number of hate crimes since 1991, when the state first started to collect this data. It also shows that Broward and Miami-Dade counties had the largest number of reported hate crimes against LGBT communities.
Brian Winfield, communications director for Equality Florida, tells the Independent that the attorney general reports indicate that the number of LGBT-motivated hate crimes increased from 2007 to 2008 by 25 percent. Winfield argues that was the same year that “anti-gay forces were pushing for a marriage amendment to the constitution.”
“That’s a trend we’ve seen across the nation,” he says. “When political and faith leaders dehumanize LGBT people, hate crimes skyrocket.”