Florida’s Fight to Expand Hate Crime Protections

October 18, 2021 News & Announcements

Last week, members of the Florida Hate Crime Coalition gathered at Florida’s Capitol to show their support for SB 308, legislation aimed at expanding protections afforded in Florida’s hate crime law. SB 308, filed by Senator Lori Berman, and its matching house bill, HB 111, filed by Representative Joe Geller, expands grounds for reclassification of offenses to include prejudice based on gender, gender identity, or physical disability. Both amend Section 775.085 of the Florida Statutes, stating that a hate crime has occurred if the crime was based in whole or in part on the race, color, ancestry, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, national origin, homeless status, advanced age, gender, or gender identity of any person. Importantly, it also defines ‘gender identity’, as “a person’s gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior, regardless of whether such gender-related identity, appearance, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s physiology or assigned sex at birth.”

Furthermore, the legislation replaces the term ‘mental or physical disability’ under Section 775.0863 of the Florida Statutes with the term ‘disability’. It amends the definition of ‘disability’ to include “a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more of a person’s major life activities.” Lastly, the bills amend the Hate Crimes Reporting Act codified under Section 877.19 of the Florida Statutes, requiring that the Governor, through the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, collect and disseminate data on incidents of criminal acts that evidence prejudice based on race, religion, ethnicity, color, ancestry, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or national origin.

The Importance of Expanding Hate Crime Protections 

If Florida passed this legislation, they would join 22 states, 2 territories, and Washington D.C., whose hate crime law includes sexual orientation and gender identity. Currently, 11 states have hate crime laws that include only sexual orientation. Implementation of this legislation would also align with federal law, which under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, allows the federal government to prosecute hate crimes, including those based on sexual identity and gender identity. According to recent FBI data, “hate crimes based on gender, gender identity, and disability have increased by 509% since 2011, from 64 in 2011 to 390 in 2020.” Furthermore, Olivia Babis, Senior Public Policy Analyst for Disability Rights Florida, commented on the frightening reality people with disabilities face when it comes to hate crimes. She stated:

 “People with disabilities are at least 2.5 times more likely to experience violence than their non-disabled peers and hate crimes against people with disabilities are frequently minimized and referred to as pranks or bullying because of the societal view that their lives aren’t as valuable.”

According to the Human Rights Campaign, a 2020 report revealed that sexual orientation-based hate crimes comprise 16.7% of hate crimes, which is the third-largest category after race and religion. The report also “shows an uptick in gender identity-based hate crimes rising from 2.2% in 2018 to 2.7% in 2019.” Human Rights Campaign President Alphonso David shed light on this growing issue, stating:

“Yet another year with alarming levels of bias-motivated crimes underscores just how urgent it is to address this hate crimes epidemic. This year, we saw a tragic new record of fatal violence against transgender and gender non-conforming people in this country, particularly against Black and Brown transgender women. These alarming statistics represent real trauma for individuals and families across this country who have to bear the brunt of these hate crimes.”

If this growing issue isn’t alarming enough, such statistics likely only represent a minor fraction of the gender-based hate crimes that occur in the country. This is because law enforcement agencies are not required to report hate crimes to the FBI, resulting in the overall “number of law enforcement agencies reporting hate crimes data decreased by 451 from 2018 to 2019” with 71 cities with populations over 100,000 failing to report any hate crime data to the FBI or reporting 0 hate crimes, clearly inaccurate information that is not reflective of hate crime statistics. Data provided by the FBI shows that between 2013-2017, Florida experienced a 102% increase in hate crimes, which crimes based on sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability being common reasons for hate crimes behind racial animosity and religion.

As the prevalence of hate crimes increases throughout the nation, as well as throughout Florida, additional protections for vulnerable groups of people must be implemented. This legislation undoubtedly fills the gap that under Florida’s current hate crime law, allows for individuals to commit heinous hate crimes based on gender, gender identity, and disability without additional legal repercussions for their hate-driven animosity. If passed, it will go into effect on July 1, 2022.

If you would like to read about Florida’s current hate crime law, the penalties that follow from breaking the law, and the dangers of underreporting hate crimes, you can do so here.

This article was written by Sarah Kamide

Back to Top