Sexual Orientation and Gender Bias Motivated Violent Crime

Part of the Advances in Psychology and Law book series (APL, volume 4)


Bias-motivated crimes, also known as hate crimes, are defined by the U.S. Department of Justice (Hate Crime Statistics, 2016) as “crimes that manifest evidence of prejudice based on race, religion, sexual orientation, or ethnicity.” Hate crimes differ from other types of crime in that they typically involve excessive violence; are more likely to be committed against strangers; are often not planned; are typically committed by young, white males; and often involve more than one offender. The Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act (1993) was created, in part, to account for the specific ways in which hate crimes are directed not only toward the person against whom the crime was committed but toward the group to which that person belongs. Hate crimes committed against members of the LGBTQ community have been explored in various ways over the decades. Perceptions of the crimes themselves and judgments made in cases related to sexual orientation bias have been investigated by psychological, political, and legal scholars, as have the utility and impact of hate crime statutes. Effects of these types of crime on both the victim and the community have also been explored by researchers. Arguments opposing the policing of and challenging the deterrent effects of hate crime legislation aside, hate crime statutes continue to expand, with the most recent federal statute, Public Law No. 111-84 (AKA the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act), enacted in 2009. The purpose of the present chapter is to identify the current state of the literature on sexual orientation and gender bias motivated violent crimes. Knowing the current state of research in this area helps to identify where future research and policy considerations should focus.


Hate crime Sexual orientation Gender identity Bias motivated Violence 


  1. Alvarez, M. J., & Miller, M. K. (2016). Counterfactual thinking about crime control theater: Mock jurors’ decision making in an AMBER Alert trial. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 22(4), 349–361. Scholar
  2. American Bar Association (ABA). (2013). Resolution 113A. Curtail the availability and effectiveness of the “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses.Google Scholar
  3. Bell, J. G., & Perry, B. (2015). Outside looking in: The community impacts of anti-lesbian, gay, and bisexual hate crime. Journal of Homosexuality, 62(1), 98–120. Scholar
  4. Berrill, K. T., & Herek, G. M. (1990). Primary and secondary victimization in anti-gay hate crimes: Official response and public policy. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 5(3), 401–413. Scholar
  5. Cramer, R. J., Kehn, A., Pennington, C. R., Wechsler, H. J., & Clark III, J. W. (2013a). An examination of sexual orientation- and transgender-based hate crimes in the post-Matthew Shepard era. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 19(3), 355–368. Scholar
  6. Cramer, R. J., Nobles, M. R., Amacker, A. M., & Dovoedo, L. (2013b). Defining and evaluating perceptions of victim blame in antigay hate crimes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 28(14), 2894–2914. Scholar
  7. Cramer, R. J., Wakeman, E. E., Chandler, J. F., Mohr, J. J., & Griffin, M. P. (2013c). Hate crimesin trial: Judgments about violent crime against gay men. Psychiatry, Psychology, and Law, 20(2), 202–215.
  8. Cramer, R. J., Clark III, J. W., Kehn, A., Burks, A. C., & Wechsler, H. J. (2014). A mock juror investigation of blame attribution in the punishment of hate crime perpetrators. International Journal of Law and Psychiatry, 37(6), 551–557. Scholar
  9. DeVault, A., Miller, M. K., & Griffin, T. (2016). Crime control theater: Past, present, and future. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 22(4), 341–348. Scholar
  10. Downey, J. P., & Stage, F. K. (1999). Hate crimes and violence on college and university campuses. Journal of College Student Development, 40(1), 3–12.Google Scholar
  11. Duncan, D. T., & Hatzenbuehler, M. L., (2014). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender hate crimes and suicidality along a population-based sample of sexual-minority adolescents in Boston. American Journal of Public Health, 104(2), 272–278. Scholar
  12. Erba, J. (2014). Effective or symbolic? Testing the constitutionality of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. International Journal of Discrimination and the Law, 14(2), 99–116. Scholar
  13. Gerstenfeld, P. B. (1992). Smile when you call me that: Problems with punishing hate motivated behavior. Behavioral Sciences & the Law, 10(2), 259–285. Scholar
  14. Griffin, T., & Miller, M. K. (2008). Child abduction, AMBER alert, and crime control theater. Criminal Justice Review, 33(2), 159–176. Scholar
  15. Gruenewald, J. (2012). Are anti-LGBT homicides in the United States unique? Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 27(18), 3601–3623. Scholar
  16. Gruenewald, J., & Kelley, K. (2014). Exploring anti-LGBT homicide by mode of victim selection. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 41(9), 1130–1152.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Hate Crime Sentencing Enhancement Act. (1993). Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act, 280003 (Public Law 103-322), 108 Stat. 1796, 2096.Google Scholar
  18. Hate Crime Statistics Act. (1990). 28 U.S.C. § 534.Google Scholar
  19. Hatzenbuehler, M., Nolen-Hoeksema, S., & Dovidio, J. (2009). How does stigma “get under the skin”? The mediating role of emotion regulation. Psychological Science, 20(10), 1282–1289. Scholar
  20. Hein, L. C, & Scharer, K. M. (2013). Who cares if it is a hate crime? Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender hate crimes—Mental health implications and interventions. Perspectives in Psychiatric Care, 49(2), 84–93. Scholar
  21. Herek, G. M. (1989). Hate crimes against lesbians and gay men: Issues for research and policy. American Psychologist, 44(6), 948–955. Scholar
  22. Herek, G. M. (1994). Heterosexism, hate crimes, and the law. In M. Costanzo & S. Oskamp (Eds.), Violence and the law (pp. 89–112). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications Inc.Google Scholar
  23. Herek, G. M., Gillis, J. R., & Cogan, J. C. (1999). Psychological sequelae of hate crime victimization among lesbians, gay and bisexual adults. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 67(6), 945–51. Scholar
  24. Herek, G. M., Cogan, J. C., & Gillis, J. R. (2002). Victim experiences in hate crimes based on sexual orientation. Journal of Social Issues, 58(2), 319–339. Scholar
  25. Human Rights Campaign. (2016). Addressing anti-transgender violence: Exploring realities, challenges, and solutions for policy makers and community advocates.
  26. Human Rights Campaign. (2017a). A matter of life and death: Fatal violence of transgendered people in America 2016.
  27. Human Rights Campaign. (2017b). State hate crime laws.
  28. Iganski, P. (2016). Hate Crimes Hurt More. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(4):626–638.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Jacobs, J. B., & Potter, K. (1998). Hate crimes: Criminal law and identity politics. NY: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  30. Keller, J., & Dauenheimer, D. (2003). Stereotype threat in the classroom: Dejection mediates the disrupting threat effect on women’s math performance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 29(3), 371–381. Scholar
  31. Kelley, H. H. (1972). Causal schemata and the attribution process. In E. E. Jones, D. E. Kanouse, H. H. Kelley, R. E. Nisbett, S. Valins, & B. Weiner (Eds.), Attribution: Perceiving the causes of behavior (pp. 151–174). Morristown, NJ: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kite, M. E., & Whitley, B. E. Jr. (1996). Sex differences in attitudes toward homosexual persons, behaviors, and civil rights: A meta-analysis. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 22(4), 336–353. Scholar
  33. Kristiansen, C. M., & Giulietti, R. (1990). Perceptions of wife abuse: Effects of gender, attitudes toward women, and just-world beliefs among college students. Psychology of Women Quarterly, 14(2), 177–189. Scholar
  34. Lannert, B. K. (2015). Traumatogenic processes and pathways to mental health outcomes for sexual minorities exposed to bias crime information. Trauma, Violence, & Abuse, 16(3), 291–298. Scholar
  35. Lemyre, L., & Smith, P. (1985). Intergroup discrimination and self-esteem in the minimal group paradigm. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 49(3), 660–670. Scholar
  36. Magane, A. (2017, June 21). Don’t tell me Nabra Hassanen, the Muslim girl who was kidnapped outside a mosque and murdered, was a victim of road rage. The Independent. Retrieved from
  37. Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (2009). 18 U.S.C. § 249.Google Scholar
  38. McDevitt, J., Balboni, L., Garcia, L., & Gu, J. (2001). Consequences for victims: A comparison of bias-and non-bias-motivated assaults. American Behavioral Scientist, 45(4), 697–713. Scholar
  39. McPhail, B. A., & DiNitto, D. M. (2005). Prosecutorial perspectives on gender-bias hate crimes. Violence Against Women, 11(9), 1162–1185. Scholar
  40. Miller, A. J. (2001). Student perceptions of hate crimes. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 25(2), 293–307. Scholar
  41. Meyer, D. (2010). Evaluating the severity of hate-motivated violence: Intersectional differences among LGBT hate crime victims. Sociology, 44(5), 980–995. Scholar
  42. Nagoshi, J. L., Brzuzy, S. I., & Terrell, H. K. (2012). Deconstructing the complex perceptions of gender roles, gender identity, and sexual orientation among transgender individuals. Feminism & Psychology, 22(4), 405–422. Scholar
  43. New details emerge in Matthew Shepard Murder. (2004, November 26). ABC News 20/20. Retrieved from
  44. Perry, B., & Dyck, D. R. (2014). “I don’t know where it is safe”: Trans women’s experiences of violence. Critical Criminology, 22(1), 49–63. Scholar
  45. Petrosino, C. (1999). Connecting the past to the future: Hate crime in America. Journal of Contemporary Criminal Justice, 15(1), 22–47. Scholar
  46. Plumm, K. M., Potter, S., & Terrance, C. A. (2015). Perceptions of bias-motivate assault against bisexual individuals. Journal of Bisexuality, 15(2), 248–267.
  47. Plumm, K. M., & Terrance, C. A. (2009). Battered women who kill: The impact of expert testimony and empathy induction in the courtroom. Violence Against Women, 15(2), 186–205. Scholar
  48. Plumm, K. M., & Terrance, C. A. (2013). Gender-bias hate crimes: What constitutes a hate crime from a potential juror’s perspective? Journal of Applied Social Psychology, 43(7), 1468–1479. Scholar
  49. Plumm, K. M., Terrance, C. A., & Austin, A. (2014). Not all hate crimes are created equal: An examination of the roles of ambiguity and expectations in perceptions of hate crimes. Current Psychology, 33(7), 321–364.
  50. Plumm, K. M., Terrance, C. A., Henderson, V. R., & Ellingson, H. (2010). Victim blame in a hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation. Journal of Homosexuality, 57(2), 267–286. Scholar
  51. Rose, S., & Mechanic, M. (2002). Psychological distress, crime features and help-seeking behaviors related to homophobic bias incidents. American Behavioral Scientist, 46(1), 14–26. Scholar
  52. Rayburn, N. R., Mendoza, M., & Davidson, G. C. (2016). Bystanders’ perceptions of perpetrators and victims of hate crime. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 18(9):1055–1074.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Schick v. State (1991). 570N.E.2d 918.Google Scholar
  54. Sicafuse, L. L., & Miller, M. K. (2010). Social psychological influences on the popularity of AMBER alerts. Criminal Justice and Behavior, 37(11), 1237–1254. Scholar
  55. Stacey, M. (2011). Distinctive characteristics of sexual orientation bias crimes. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 26(15), 3013–3032. Scholar
  56. Stack, L. (2017, May 16). U.S. hate crime law punished transgender woman’s killer, in a first. The New York Times. Retrieved from
  57. Stafford, Z. (2015, November 13). Transgender homicide rate hits historic high in US says new report. The Guardian. Retrieved from
  58. Stotzer, R. (2010). Sexual orientation-based hate crimes on campus: The impact of policy on reporting rates. Sexuality Research and Social Policy, 7(3), 147–154.
  59. Stotzer, R. L. (2013). The intersection of suspect and victim race/ethnicity among anti-gay and anti-lesbian bias crimes. Psychology & Sexuality, 5(4):357–373.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  60. Stotzer, R. (2015). Youth involvement in anti-gay and anti-lesbian bias crimes. Violence and Victims, 30(2): 308–321. Scholar
  61. Sullaway, M. (2004). Psychological perspectives on hate crime laws. Psychology, Public Policy, and Law, 10(3), 250–292. Scholar
  62. Szymanski, D. (2005). Heterosexism and sexism as correlates of psychological distress in lesbians. Journal of Counseling & Development, 83(3), 355–360. Scholar
  63. United States Department of Justice, Federal Bureau of Investigation. (2016, November). Hate Crime Statistics, 2016. Retrieved April 8, 2017 from
  64. Wilson, M. S. (2013). Violence and mental health in the transgender community (Doctoral dissertation, Ohio University). Retrieved from
  65. Yan, H., & Hassan, C. (2018, April 24). The man accused of mowing down Toronto pedestrians is charged with murder. CNN. Retrieved from
  66. Yost, M. R., & Thomas, G. D. (2012). Gender and binegativity: Men’s and women’s attitudes toward male and female bisexuals. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 41(3), 691–702. Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Psychology, College of Arts & SciencesUniversity of North DakotaGrand ForksUSA

Personalised recommendations