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Hate Crimes

LGBTQ people experience harassment and violence at high rates—likely at much higher rates than what is currently reported to the FBI or other law enforcement agencies. Some states have worked to pass hate crime laws which require law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes committed with bias against LGBTQ people. Hate crimes differ from conventional crimes because they are meant to incite fear and intimidation in an entire group or class of people. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 gave the federal Department of Justice the ability to investigate and prosecute hate crimes against LGBTQ people. Anti-violence and LGBTQ advocates are working to address the high rates of violence experienced by LGBTQ people, particularly transgender women of color. They are primarily working to ensure that when LGBTQ people report crimes to law enforcement, they are treated safely and with respect.   

Related Resources


Hate Crime Laws

Hate crime laws require law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute crimes committed with bias against LGBTQ people. Some state laws require collection of data on anti-LGBTQ hate crimes.


Policy Spotlight: Hate Crime Laws

July 2021 - This report provides a side-by-side look at the limitations and opportunities of hate crime laws as a means of preventing and addressing hate violence.


Week #1: 10 Ways President Biden Can Support LGBTQ People

November 2020 - This brief highlights 10 actions the Biden administration can immediately start to ensure LGBTQ people and their families can be protected from discrimination.


Talking About Inclusive Hate Crimes Laws

May 2009 - This report, developed prior to the passage of the inclusive federal hate crimes law in 2009, focuses on emphasizing the overwhelming public support for LGBT-inclusive hate crimes laws, sharing stories that illustrate how LGBT people have been targeted for and hurt by violent hate crimes, and reminding people that hate crimes laws already exist across the country and are supported by law enforcement.

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Sexual Orientation Policy Tally

The term “sexual orientation” is loosely defined as a person’s pattern of romantic or sexual attraction to people of the opposite sex or gender, the same sex or gender, or more than one sex or gender. Laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation primarily protect or harm lesbian, gay, and bisexual people. That said, transgender people who are lesbian, gay or bisexual can be affected by laws that explicitly mention sexual orientation.

Gender Identity Policy Tally

“Gender identity” is a person’s deeply-felt inner sense of being male, female, or something else or in-between. “Gender expression” refers to a person’s characteristics and behaviors such as appearance, dress, mannerisms and speech patterns that can be described as masculine, feminine, or something else. Gender identity and expression are independent of sexual orientation, and transgender people may identify as heterosexual, lesbian, gay or bisexual. Laws that explicitly mention “gender identity” or “gender identity and expression” primarily protect or harm transgender people. These laws also can apply to people who are not transgender, but whose sense of gender or manner of dress does not adhere to gender stereotypes.

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