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When love meets hate: The relationship between state policies on gay and lesbian rights and hate crime incidence

January 2017

Brian L. Levy, Denise L. Levy


Legislation regarding sexual orientation has proven to be correlated with the number of reported hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation in those states which enforce them as well as states nearby. Constitutional amendments banning same-sex marriage, state-wide partnership recognition policies, and the immediate years following pro-equality policies saw an increase in hate crimes. Decreases in reported hate crimes were found in areas with anti-discrimination and pro-equality policies dealing with sexual orientation over time. There was no statistical significance after the first pro-equality legislation was passed but benefits of this policy were seen after the second policy was passed. This study did not control for all state-related effects being that it took place over a span of 13 years, not taking into account policies passed prior.

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Policy Implications

While the benefits of anti-discrimination and pro-equality policies may not take place until years following their enactment, they do in fact, have an impact on the number of reported hate crimes in the affected areas. There are benefits that come from mitigating discursive opportunities for biases against the LGB population as is exemplified in the long-term effects of anti-discrimination policies surrounding employment, just as legislation against same-sex marriage/ partnership recognition is positively correlated with reported hate crimes. To decrease the number of hate crimes regarding sexual orientation, it is clear that investing in anti-discrimination and pro-equality policies will prove beneficial to the states that implement them and those surrounding.

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