Statements on Hate Crime

Statements by...


"There is a lot of violence directed against gays ... which frequently results in awful murders. I believe there is good reason to undertake an analysis of this syndrome ... Gays constitute a minority that has both rights and responsibilities. I am a firm believer in insisting that both be observed."

--Minneapolis Chief of Police Anthony V. Bouza to National Institute of Justice, July 15, 1987.

"Many times gay people are singled out for particularly vicious attacks which have led to serious injury and even death.... These attacks need to be stopped because as public officials we cannot allow one segment of our society to continue to be victimized. If we had more information about the attacks then appropriate responses to them could proceed in a more informed way." 

-San Francisco Chief of Police Frank M.. Jordan, in a letter to the National Institute of Justice, March 24, 1986.

"I am writing to urge the National Institute of Justice to begin a study of the growing problem of anti-gay violence in our society. While it is difficult to assemble good statistical information on these incidents, we perceive a definite increase."

--Washington, D.C., Chief of Justice Maurice T. Turner, to the National Institute of justice, August 7, 1987.  

"Acts of harassment, intimidation and violence against gay and lesbian people are widespread and are morally reprehensible. Moreover, violence against gay and lesbian people is s untoward and cruelly heinous as violence against racial, ethnic, and religious minorities." 

--University of Pennsylvania Center for Studies in Criminology and Criminal Law Director Marvin E. Wolfgang, Ph.D., in testimony to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, January 8, 1985.


"In recent weeks in New York we have had a series of violent actions against persons perceived to be homosexuals. These actions were so brutal that they could have resulted in murder. As it is, one victim is still hospitalized in serious condition as a result of beatings with a baseball bat and a knife wound in the lung. I wish I had language strong enough to condemn this kind of cruelty. Anyone who performs such actions in the belief that he or she is in some way helping society is utterly stupid." Those who perpetrate violence against homosexuals "are doing violence against Christ Himself."

--New York Roman Catholic Cardinal John O' Connor, in a sermon given on September 11, 1988.

"Attacks on Americans based solely on their religion, race, sexual orientation or ethnicity are attacks on society as a whole. When our gay citizens are viciously attacked, our national commitment of basic decency and humanity is undermined. Compelling evidence shows that anti-gay violence is the most prevalent form of hate crime, and many perpetrators of anti-gay violence commit hate crimes based on religion, race and ethnicity."

--Lutheran Office for Governmental Affairs Former Director Reverend Charles Bergstrom, Charles Bergstrom, testimony in favor of Federal Hate Crimes Act before the House Subcommittee on the constitution, June 21, 1988.

"Discrimination or violence directed against persons with AIDS is unjust and immoral."

--U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, "The many Faces of AIDS: A Gospel Response," December 1987.

"These events at the University of Chicago (swastikas painted on a campus office that served gay students and other harassment) bear witness to the rising incidence of prejudice and violence against homosexuals on campuses nationwide, a trend that coincides with the dramatic rise in attacks against gays and lesbians in the country at large. Homosexuals have become the latest American scapegoats."

--American Baptist University of Chicago Minister Evan Drake Howard, in an article in The Christian Century, July 15, 1987.

"Over the last few years, gay and lesbian people in the united States have been the victims of a frightening increase in violent acts of crime.... As Christians, we must deplore every act of violence against gays and lesbians. We must respect their right to live in dignity, and reject every act that tries to force the contrary. We must be God to give us the grace to understand how to repent for so many years of sinful violence directed against gay and lesbian people."

--The Catholic Worker, article in May 1987.

"It is time -- indeed, the time has passed -- that the rights of homosexual and lesbian persons must be protected alongside the rights of all others who enjoy these rights in our society. The intimidation and violence against this segment of our society violate basic Christian teachings and the sense of justice of all persons of good will.... These persons are due protection of our society that they may live like all the rest of us -- in guaranteed freedom."

--Lutheran Bishop James A. Graefe, Metropolitan New York Synod to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, January 16, 1985.

"As a bishop who has had the opportunity to observe the first hand the kind of violence -- yes, savage almost maniacal violence -- as well as lesser, more subtle but nevertheless destructive forms of violence perpetrated against gay and lesbian people, I want to urge the U.S. commission on Civil Rights to take this matter seriously in its activities. It is no secret that gay and lesbian persons are frequently subject to indignities, harassment and physical abuse which, if perpetrated against more conventional members of society, would not be tolerated."

--Lutheran Bishop Philip Wahlberg, Texas-Louisiana Synod to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, January 11, 1985.

"Violence against any human being violates the teachings of the Judeo-Christian tradition. Thus the increased incidence of violence against gay and lesbian Americans is indefensible and morally reprehensible. Anti-gay/lesbian violence is a crime qualitatively equal to violence against racial, ethnic or religious groups."

--United Church of Christ Board for homeland Ministries Executive Vice President Charles Shelby Rooks, January 4, 1985.

"One of the current human rights problems is acts of harassment and violence against persons of homosexual orientation. Such actions in our nation violate both our national standards of human rights as well as standards of Judeo-Christian heritage. They specifically violate one of the clear positions of the United Methodist Church, Which affirms the human rights of all persons, including those in this category."

--United Methodist Church Los Angeles Bishop Jack M. Tuell, to U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, December 21, 1984.

"The most awful stain left by bigotry on American history -- and its most grievous affront against our country's ideals -- is the record of violence committed by haters against the hated, whose 'guilt' and vulnerability has been that they are 'different'.... I'm sure you have noted the recent harassment and violent assaults perpetrated against gays -- a development which we think might well be assessed as part of an overall study of bigoted crimes. Americans as individuals, however stereotyped as 'different,' have a basic right to be free from societal violence."

-Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith national Director Nathan Perlmutter to U.S. commission on Civil Rights, December 20, 1984.

"Nothing can justify attacks on homosexual persons, and the Church must clearly repudiate all such acts. Violence is not the way of the Gospel. Violence is not the way of the Church. Violence is not the way of Christ."

--San Francisco Roman Catholic Archbishop John R. Quinn, statement to all Deans, August 2, 1984.

"It is a dangerous repeat of history when the answer to have and violence against a group of people is virtual silence on the part of the hierarchy of the Roman catholic Church.... In view of the escalating assaults on lesbian women and gay men by fundamentalist Christians and others, it would seem imperative for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese to intervene, at least at the level of clear disassociation from the aims and tactics of such religious demagoguery."

--Archdiocese of San Francisco, Report of the Task Force on Gay/Lesbian Issues, July 1982. 


 "Finally, I'd like to repeat my support for two top legislative priorities -- an employment nondiscrimination act that would ban discrimination against gays and lesbians in the workplace, and a hate crimes prevention act.  Last year, the entire nation was outraged by the brutal killings of Matthew Shepard, a young gay student in Wyoming; and James Byrd, and African American in Texas.  All Americans are entitled to the same respect and legal protection, no matter their race, their gender, their sexual orientation.  I agree with something President Truman once said, "When I say Americans, I mean all Americans."

--President Bill Clinton at Human Rights Day presentation, December 10, 1998

"We must send a clear and strong message to all who would commit crimes of hate: it is wrong, it is illegal, and we will catch you and punish you to the full force of our laws."

-Vice President Al Gore

"I was deeply grieved by the act of violence perpetrated against Matthew Shepard of Wyoming. The Justice Department has assured me that local law enforcement officials are proceeding diligently to bring those responsible to justice. And I am determined that we will do everything we can and offer whatever assistance is appropriate. Hillary and I ask that your thoughts and your prayers be with Mr. Shepard and his family, and with the people of Laramie, Wyoming. 

"In the face of this terrible act of violence, they are joining together to demonstrate that an act of evil like this is not what our country is all about. In fact it strikes at the very heart of what it means to be an American and at the values that define us as a Nation. We must all reaffirm that we will not tolerate this. Just this year there have been a number of recent tragedies across our country that involve hate crimes. 

"The vicious murder of James Byrd last June in Jasper, Texas and the assault this week on Mr. Shepard are only among the most horrifying examples. Almost one year ago I proposed that Congress enact the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Our Federal laws already punish some crimes committed against people on the basis of race or religion or national origin, but we should do more.  This crucial legislation would strengthen and expand the ability of the Justice Department to prosecute hate crimes by removing needless jurisdictional requirements for existing crimes and by giving Federal prosecutors the power to prosecute hate crimes committed because of the victim's sexual orientation, gender, or disability. All Americans deserve protection from hate. There is nothing more important to the future of this country than our standing together against intolerance, prejudice, and violent bigotry. It is not too late for Congress to take action before they adjourn and pass The Hate Crimes Prevention Act. By doing so they will help make all Americans more safe and secure."

--President Bill Clinton, October 10, 1998

“Governor Bush has said this was a brutal and deplorable act.  If this horrible crime had occurred in Texas those responsible, when convicted, would be subject to the maximum punishment – the death penalty.”

--Statement by Texas Governor George W. Bush’s Spokesperson, Karen Hughes, regarding Matthew Shepard's murder in Wyoming, October 15, 1998

"Well, we have one in Texas. [T]hat is the most misunderstood thing about our state. We do have a hate crimes bill. And what I suggested was that violent crime is hate and it's hard to distinguish between one person's hate and another person's hate. And I say we ought to apply the law equally across the board, and we did so in Texas.

"As a matter of fact, one of the defendants in the Byrd case has received the death penalty. That's the most, to me, that is the ultimate sanction of hate crimes."

-Candidate for President George W. Bush 11/18/1999 on CNN Morning News

T. RUSSERT: Your pastor, Governor, said, "Let's send a message that Texas is not a hate state and pass this law." Will you listen to your minister?

GOV. BUSH: The best way to send a message, in all due respect to my minister who I love dearly, ... is to hold people accountable for their behavior. I also have problems trying to figure out how we prosecute thought in America. I mean, hate is hate ... It's like when the guy walked into the Columbine High School and, unfortunately, shot two men, one white and one black. Now what's the difference between that crime? Hate is hate.

-Candidate for President George W. Bush on November 21, 1999 on "Meet the Press"

"I think [any] violent crime is hate. It is motivated by hate. It's hard to distinguish one crime from another because any time you conduct an act of violence on somebody, it's filled with hate. Somebody who … perpetuates a crime on a neighbor has hate in their hearts. And so I believe all crimes ought to be viewed for what they are, as hate crimes and people need to be judged accordingly. We had an interesting hate crime debate in my state of Texas, and I said all crime is hate and let's treat all crime exactly the same. And there was an unfortunate circumstance and not only unfortunate [but] brutal circumstance where an African-American [had a hate crime] perpetuated on him and the jury in east Texas judged the people involved guilty and now they will be sentenced to death."

-George W. Bush on February 12, 2000 at a town meeting before South Carolina GOP Primary

“Once again, we have seen the tragic consequences of hate-motivated crime.  Earlier this year, the nation was outraged by the gruesome, hateful murder of James Byrd, Jr.  in Jasper, Texas.  Since that time, calls for prompt passage by the Republican-led Congress of strong hate crimes legislation have continued to go unheeded.  I fully support strengthening laws covering crime motivated by race, religion, national origin, sexual orientation or disability and, as Governor will make the passage of such laws by the State Legislature a top priority.

“As Texas and the nation become increasingly diverse, we must celebrate that diversity and look for ways to ensure that the talents of all Texans are utilized to the fullest.  We must ensure that all Texans are provided equal opportunity for good jobs and safe streets and neighborhoods.

“Texas needs to pass laws enhancing the penalties for hate crimes, to provide civil remedies for victims and their families, and to make sure that law enforcement agencies have the resources they need to investigate, report and resolve hate crimes.  I am committed to putting the full weight of the Governor's Office behind this effort.  I think Texans have the right to know if Governor Bush is willing to do the same.”

--Garry Mauro, candidate for Texas Governor, October 14, 1998

"It is indeed a sad time, the tragic death of 21 year old Matthew Shepard has saddened all of us, and made us wonder how these horrifying acts of violence can take place.  My heartfelt condolences go out to his parents, his family and his friends.

"There is no place in our society for intolerance and bigotry.  Discrimination is simply unacceptable in any form.  On Thursday, October 15th Congress passed legislation to condemn this act of violence.  This bill was passed by the House unanimously.  I believe that this bill is very important as it urges every American to denounce his murder and it sets forth a pledge by Congress to work to end such crimes of violence and prejudice. 

"Additionally, the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 1997, which was introduced back in November, and was co-sponsored by 166 members of Congress is still pending before the House and Senate.  This bill will put hate crimes under federal jurisdiction.  It will set penalties for bodily injury or attempts to cause bodily injury because of race, color, religion, sexual orientation, disability or national origin of any person.

"Members of congress, including myself, have spoken to Speaker Gingrich and Majority Leader Lott to bring up this bill for consideration before we adjourn.  It is important that we addresses these hate crimes and work vigorously to protect innocent people like Matthew. 

"My thoughts and sentiments are with you today as we pay tribute to the Life of Matthew Shepard.  A life that was so needlessly taken from his family and friends.  My prayers are with his family.  Tonight I give my promise to continue to work to get Hate Crime Legislation passed to eliminate terrible crimes such as this one."

--Congressman Silvestre Reyes, statement issued to LAMBDA on Matthew Shepard's death, October 16, 1998

"If you want to judge by statistics (gays) make a stronger case that anybody in terms of need [for the New York hate crimes bill] based on episodes -- ugly, cruel, violent, dangerous episodes... What is the basis for leaving out sexual orientation?"

--New York governor Mario Cuomo, criticizing the New York State Senate leadership for blocking passage of the Hate Crimes Bill, quoted in the Advocate, September 13, 1988

"While crimes against religious and ethnic minorities have commanded most previous attention, several recent studies have concluded that more and more homosexuals are targets for violence propelled by homophobic fear and hatred... Moreover, this pattern of increased violence requires official recognition as a crime as reprehensible as any other crime motivated by bigotry against a group of citizens."

--Senator Alan Cranston (D-MA) to the House Subcommittee on the Commission on Civil Rights, January 14, 1985.

"Violence against gays and lesbians has now reached epidemic proportions in America."

--Senator John Kerry (D-MA) to the house Subcommittee on the Constitution, June 21, 1988.

"There are many such crimes nationwide, which thrive on spreading hatred and bitterness. Unfortunately such crimes are not confined to racial and religious acts of violence but now, more that ever before, we are confronted with incidents against individuals based on prejudice against individuals their sexual orientation."

--Senator Daniel Moynihan (D-NY) to National Institute of Mental health and National Institute of Justice, June 24, 1987.

"Recently my constituents in Connecticut were stunned by reports that two young men allegedly bludgeoned a homosexual man to death. However, as the shock lessens, and other incidents of violence against homosexual in the area come to light, we realize that this is not an isolated incident."

--Representative Barbara Kennelly (D-CT), testimony before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, June 21, 1988.

"I believe that such a provision (requiring the collection and publication of data on anti-gay and lesbian offenses) is an essential ingredient that must be included in whatever bill is enacted into law. The people who hate do not discriminate in selecting their targets. Gays and lesbians are being victimized daily just because of who they are."

--Representative John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI), testimony in favor of Federal Hate Crimes Act before the House Subcommittee on the Constitution, June 21, 1988 

" I am concerned that the rise in awareness of AIDS among our populace has led to a rise in anti-gay violence. Testimony offered by criminal justice professionals and law enforcement officials during the House Subcommittee on Criminal Justice hearings last fall confirms that this problem is a pervasive and explosive one."

-Representative John Miller (R-WA) to national Institute of Mental Health and National Institute of Justice, May 27, 1987.


"For me it's a matter of human rights and a deeply theological issue.  I believe they are as much God's children as anyone.

"I can't be part of a scheme for clobbering them."

--South Africa's retired Anglican Archbishop Desmond Tutu on the beating death of Matthew Shepard, November 1998


"If you have hate and intolerance in society, it blends into every aspect: school, church, professions.  Society has to change.  We as a society have to have the courage to stand up and say, 'That's wrong.  We will no longer tolerate this.  It's unacceptable.'"

-Ben Zunino, principal of Hug High School following the April 1999 student killings in Littleton, Colorado. 

"In a global community in which so many diverse populations interact, it is essential for all individuals to adhere to the highest standards in the pursuit of individual, civil and human rights. Respect and dignity for every person in this community, state, nation and world must be pursued. 

"Understanding and accepting differences is the element that allows for individuals and groups to co-exist and live in an environment that allows mutual respect.  The imposition of one individual’s values over another individual through violence and force contradicts the very basic human right of expression and individual liberty.

"Hatred and prejudice have no place in a society surrounded by diversity.  We must continue to remember that respect for each and every individual is the essence of this nation."

--Statement on hate crimes by the El Paso Community College President's Office, October 16, 1998

"It is an act of courage to say no to hate, intolerance and bigotry. And it's an act of cowardice to go along with the crowd and not stand up for what is morally right.  It is terribly sad that young people could commit such an act of cruelty against Matthew Shepard, a fellow human being. This horrendous ad is a mistake. It's a mistake on the part of all adults who allow intolerance to continue. It's a mistake in how our society raises our children. If we forget to teach the lessons of the past to our children, then we have only ourselves to blame for the mistakes of the future. 

"It saddens me to see that this kind of intolerance is still thriving in our world.

"As president of the El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center I am proud to say that the museum is there to teach the lessons that we can learn, so that mistakes of this magnitude and horror will not happen again. By teaching tolerance, perhaps we can prevent further violations of this type from occurring.

"I believe that by teaching children about what happens when we allow people to
say bad things or judge individuals or groups for what they believe, feel, or think, they will grow up to be more tolerant adults. We should be teaching them that it's okay to be different, that the world is made up of all types and kinds of people and each one of us deserves respect. Just as each one of us should respect others.

"During this past week, I had the great fortune to spend two days with a courageous leader, a man who knew that things were not right in his own country, and worked hard to change them, even at the expense of his career. He brought freedom to many of the oppressed people in his own country. President Mikhail Gorbachev didn't think that it was right to restrict a person's freedom simply because he was  Jewish. Under his administration, the Soviet Union opened the doors to emigration and hundreds of thousands of Jews left for Israel, the United States and other countries. The oppressive regime under his predecessors was nothing more than an act of hate based on the religious affiliation of a part of its citizenry. Every time there's an act of hate in the world such as the meaningless death of Matthew Shepard, it demeans everything President Gorbachev and others like him have done to fight this kind of senseless crime and is even more of a reason to stand up and fight for the rights of all human beings.

 "May we go forth with our struggle with courage and a positive attitude."

--Statement by David Marcus, President El Paso Holocaust Museum and Study Center, October 16, 1998

I've tried to keep the sense of humor in the shows. They didn't stop being funny, it's just now it's dealing with a subject matter that everybody's saying, 'OK, enough already.'  It's not enough already, clearly. If it was enough already, we wouldn't have the crime that we have -- the hate crimes, we wouldn't have the suicides, we wouldn't have, you know, gay-bashing. It's not enough already. It's not nearly enough.

--Ellen DeGeneres in the documentary The Real Ellen Story

"Matt Shepard spoke three languages or more. He seemed bright and open and full of promise. We will never know what he would have done in life. But in death, in a nation sickened by the gratuitous thuggery of his murder, he may do much to dispel the stubborn belief in some quarters that homosexuals are not discriminated against. They are. Hatred can kill. The men accused of killing Matthew Shepard will be tried for first-degree murder.  But his death makes clear the need for hate crime laws to protect those who survive and punish those who attack others, whether fatally or not, just because of who they are."

--Editorial in The New York Times, October 13, 1998.

"I am so pissed off. I can't stop crying. This is what I was trying to stop -- this is why I did what I did."

--Actress Ellen DeGeneres at an October 14, 1998 vigil in Washington, D.C., in remembrance of Matthew Shepard