New FBI data show a sharp increase in the reported number of hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation.

Today, the FBI released its latest annual statistics on U.S. hate crimes reported in 2008. Overall, “the 2008 numbers are up slightly — 7,783 incidents and 9,691 victims” were reported last year. Reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation had the largest increase — nearly 11 percent. Hate crimes based on religion rose 9 percent and the “largest category, racially-motivated hate crimes, fell less than 1 percent.” A breakdown of the 1,706 victims of sexual-orientation hate crimes:

— 57.5 percent were victims of an offender’s anti-male homosexual bias. — 27.3 percent were victims because of an anti-homosexual bias. — 11.6 percent were victims because of an anti-female homosexual bias. — 2.0 percent were victims because of an anti-heterosexual bias. — 1.6 percent were victims because of an anti-bisexual bias.

The FBI notes that with the recent passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, it will now “begin the process of adding the collection of hate crimes motivated by gender and gender identity and incorporating them into our annual report.”



The FBI adds a disclaimer that it “doesn’t report trends in hate crime stats.” So increases or decreases may be due to changes in the number of actual hate crimes, or changes in “the number of agencies who report to us varies from year to year.”