COMMENTARY: San Benito County Should Ban Homophobia

Orlando shooting was a hate crime fueled by radical religious agenda against the LGBT community

In the wake of the tragic Orlando, Fla. shooting Sunday that killed 49 innocent people at the Pulse nightclub, I fully support supervisor chair Robert Rivas' comments speaking against hate crimes against the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community in San Benito County. I would encourage the Board of Supervisors, as part of its expressed commitment to address LGBT equality in the county, to consider tasking the Sheriff's Department with reaching out to the FBI to ensure that up-to-date training has been provided to its deputies in order to address hate crimes in our community so that local law enforcement is fully apprised of current hate crime investigation practices. 

Defining the Problem. The term "hate crime" was coined in the 1980s by journalists and policy advocates who were attempting to describe a series of incidents directed at Jews, Asians and African-Americans. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defines hate crime (also known as bias crime) as "a criminal offense committed against a person, property, or society that is motivated, in whole or in part, by the offender's bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin." 

Washington and Oregon were the first states to pass hate crime legislation in 1981; today, 49 states have hate crime statutes. States vary with regard to the groups protected under hate crime laws (e.g., religion, race or ethnicity, and sexual orientation), the range of crimes covered, and the penalty enhancements for offenders. Most states and large cities now have hate crime task forces coordinating across several levels of government and working with community organizations.

But hate crimes and hate speech are not specific to one religion or radical ideology. 

In Sacramento, Baptist Pastor Roger Jimenez preached a sermon about Orlando tragedy just hours after 49 innocent people were murdered. "People say, 'Well, aren't you sad that 50 sodomites died?' Here's the problem with that, it's like the equivalent of asking me, 'Well, aren't you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today?'" Jimenez said. "No, I think that's great. I think that helps society. I think that Orlando, Florida is a little safer tonight."

Jimenez went on to say that it was a tragedy more didn't die.

"I'm kind of upset that he didn't finish the job because these people are predators," Jimenez said. "They are abusers, they take advantage of people." He also said he wished the federal government would put all gay people in front of a firing squad "and blow their brains out."

Investigating hate crimes is the number one priority of the FBI Civil Rights program. Why? Not only because hate crimes have a devastating impact on families and communities, but also because groups that preach hatred and intolerance plant the seeds of terrorism here in our country.

Defining a Hate Crime

From the FBI's web site: "A hate crime is a traditional offense like murder, arson, or vandalism with an added element of bias. For the purposes of collecting statistics, the FBI has defined a hate crime as a “criminal offense against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.” Hate itself is not a crime—and the FBI states that it is mindful of protecting freedom of speech and other civil liberties.

These efforts serve as a backstop for investigations by state and local authorities, which handle the vast majority of hate crime cases throughout the country.

Hate Crimes Working Groups (HCWGs): The majority of the FBI’s field offices participate in local Hate Crime Working Groups. These Working Groups combine community and law enforcement resources to develop strategies to address local hate crime problems.

Public Outreach: The FBI has forged partnerships nationally and locally with many civil rights organizations to establish rapport, share information, address concerns, and cooperate in solving problems. These groups include such organizations as the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, American Association of University Women, Anti-Defamation League, Asian American Justice Center, Hindu American Foundation, Human Rights Campaign, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Center for Transgender Equality, National Council of Jewish Women, National Disability Rights Network, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, National Organization for Women, Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund, The Sikh Coalition, Southern Poverty Law Center, and many others.

Training: The FBI conducts hundreds of operational seminars, workshops, and training sessions annually for local law enforcement, minority and religious organizations, and community groups to promote cooperation and reduce civil rights abuses. Each year, the FBI also provides hate crimes training for new agents, hundreds of current agents, and thousands of police officers worldwide.



Michael Smith

Pro-economic growth, pro-music, pro-science, pro-retirement.