Dear Honorable Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins and Assembly Speaker Carl E. Heastie,
We, the undersigned, write in support of the Hate Crimes Analysis and Review Act (S6066/A8070), legislation that will ensure that our state collects and reports more accurate information about New Yorkers who are involved in hate crimes.
Over the last year, your staunch commitment to protecting and advancing civil rights has helped New York State make significant progress toward full LGBTQ equity and inclusion. With the passage of several critical LGBTQ-affirming policies including the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act, New York sent a strong message of support to the rest of the country that spoke to our state’s core values of freedom and opportunity for all. While it is promising to witness the passage of affirming policies, we also acknowledge that for any policy to be as effective as intended, its implementation must also be thoughtful and comprehensive.
In a time when our country is experiencing a surge in hate crimes that continually puts the lives of LGBTQ and other communities in danger, we have a responsibility to ensure that we utilize all information necessary to accurately report hate crimes. But right now, the reporting of hate crimes across the country remains woefully inconsistent and dangerously insufficient.1 In fact, recent findings from the Federal Bureau of Investigation showed that while instances of hate-fueled intimidation, assaults and homicides rose to a 16-year high in 2018, only about 12 percent of all law enforcement agencies in the U.S. actually reported hate crimes incidents.
New York State’s current process of gathering and reporting hate crimes data does not mitigate the federal administration’s substantial information gap. In fact, New York’s Division of Criminal Justice Services failed to release reports of hate crime statistics in the state for both 2017 and 2018.2 The lack of transparency around hate crimes at federal and local levels is concerning for many community members and allies who need to be better equipped with the information necessary to make real progress toward creating meaningful, comprehensive solutions that keep our communities safe.
A key value of having sufficient hate crimes data is that it would improve our understanding of how to better hold systems of power accountable for our safety. Criminal penalties for hate crimes exist to prevent discrimination, harassment and violence against LGBTQ people, people of color and other marginalized communities. But because the criminal justice system itself is inherently flawed due to systemic oppression and bias, these same communities often experience unfair treatment that leads to disproportionate levels of criminalization, arrests, sentencing and imprisonment.3 How law enforcement and the legal system investigate and adjudicate crimes could in fact be systematically perpetuating the oppression of the very people our laws are intended to protect—yet there is no way to fully understand this or prevent it from happening without accurate and reliable data.
The Hate Crimes Analysis and Review Act is a necessary step toward understanding how hate crimes and the tools used to enforce criminal penalties are impacting our communities, as it would require New York State to collect and report data on the sexual orientation, gender identity and racial or ethnic identity of alleged perpetrators and victims of hate crimes. The benefit of gathering and sharing more information about hate crimes is that it helps us realize an important principle—that visibility can lead to accountability. As long as this information goes uncollected, our state loses a critical opportunity to effectively protect those at risk.
New Yorkers deserve the freedom and opportunity to be who they are without fear of violence. Our state has the power to ensure that accurate data informs policies that leave a lasting impact on our safety and the way we live our lives, advancing our progress on the path to ending violence and beginning healing. We applaud your continued commitment to creating progressive change and look forward to working with you to ensure that our state’s policies recognize the dignity of all New Yorkers.
Alliance for Positive Health
Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College
Destination Tomorrow: The Bronx LGBT Center
Gay & Lesbian Youth Services of Western New York, inc.
Gay Alliance of Genesee Valley, Inc.
GLSEN Hudson Valley
Identity Youth Center
Latino Commission on AIDS
National LGBT Cancer Network
New York City Anti-Violence Project
New York Transgender Advocacy Group
Out for Health:LGBTQ health and wellness
Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts
Pride Center of the Capital Region
Pride for Youth – Long Island Crisis Center
Princess Janae Place Inc
Rainbow Access Initiative, Inc.
Safe Horizon / Streetwork Project
The Black LGBT Alliance of New York
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Community Center
The LOFT LGBT Community Services Center