The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Program focuses on hate crimes. The 2011 report revealed that hate crimes based on sexual orientation rose, and for the first time, were second behind the leading factor of race. The number of reported hate crimes committed against gay men and lesbians increased from 1,277 in 2010 to 1,293 in 2011.

The report indicates: 3,465 hate crimes based on “racial bias”; 1,508 based on “sexual-orientation bias” 1,318 based on “religious bias”; 891 based on “ethnicity/national origin bias”; and 58 based on “disability bias.”

According to HRC, the FBI will “begin collecting hate crime data on gender identity beginning in 2013.” Finally.

It’s important to recognize that FBI hate crime data is based on law enforcement agencies voluntarily submitting the information. They aren’t required to do so. Obviously this means we don’t really know the extent of hate crimes. Further, as HRC notes,

In 2011, the number of agencies reporting this data dropped to 14,575, a decrease from 14,977 the previous year. Of these data-submitting agencies, only 1,944 reported even a single hate crime to the FBI, the lowest number of agencies reporting one or more hate crimes since 2002.

Zack Ford, at Think Progress adds this:

The Anti-Defamation League notes that the overall number of hate crime incidents decreased from 6,628 in 2010 to 6,222, the lowest number of reported hate crimes since 1994.

HRC provides a hate crimes timeline, with “some of the bigger developments in the fight for passage of federal hate crimes legislation.” That includes:

1989 “House passes the Hate Crimes Statistics Act by a 368-47 vote.”

1997 “President Clinton devotes his weekly radio address to hate crimes, specifically citing bias crimes against LGBT people.”

1998 James Byrd Jr., 49, of Jasper, Texas, is murdered, chained behind a pickup truck by three “members of white supremacist group,” who “dragged him for three miles.”

1998 Matthew Shepard, 21, of Laramie, Wyoming, is “tie(d) …to a split-rail fence,” beaten and left in the cold to die.

1999 “The Senate passes the Hate Crimes Prevention Act … .”.

2007 “The House passes the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act … .”

2007 “President Bush issues a veto threat for the Defense authorization bill if hate crimes legislation is attached … .”

2007 “The hate crimes amendment is stripped from the Defense Department authorization legislation.”

2009 “The House passes the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a floor vote of 249-175.”

2009 “President Barack Obama signs the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law (as a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act).”

There are multiple introductions of bills, over the years, before something finally passes in both Senate and House. James Byrd and Matthew Shepard were murdered in 1998. It wasn’t until 2009 that the bill passed and was signed into law.

In spite of the obvious limitations of data that is voluntarily and incomplete, the information is still important in helping us understand the realities of “hate crimes.” Individuals, and groups, are attacked because of race, sexual orientation, religion, ethnicity/national origin and disability. No doubt there are other “categories,” gender and age coming to mind as two others. “Different from me” is clearly a frightening thing for some.

As for the rise in hate crimes related to sexual orientation, I’ve seen a few expressing surprise, because of the steps into equality being made. I think, though, that it is at least in part precisely because of that progress that even just voluntarily reported incidents have increased. “Different from me” is scary to some, and some of those react by attacking, verbally and/or physically. Just think of all the “bullying” incidents that made the news over the last few years.

(Hate Crimes Prevention Act Signing via HRC)