In California, political action courts political violence

Santa Clara County, the California county south of San Francisco, has released its hate-crime data for 2008. In 2007, 15 percent of hate crimes were classified as homophobic; in 2008, 56 percent of hate crimes were motivated by homophobia. What changed? Deputy District Attorney Jay Boyarsky told The Mercury News that it is “headlines and controversies of the day” that lead to “surges in types of hate incidents”—-meaningthe ongoing battle over Prop 8 may have turned some Californians violent.

To some, the increase in anti-gay violence reveals the flip-side of bringing GLBT issues to the political forefront. Leslie Bulbuk, president of local GLBT political action group BAYMEC, said: “When there’s a lot more information about gays and lesbians on TV or in the news, it brings out the worst in people who have an inherent bias against groups they don’t belong to. . . . It seems like visibility makes people come out of the woodwork.”

Prop 8 supporters claim that the fight over the anti-gay-marriage initiative increased violence on both sides of the gay marriage aisle. “I certainly hope Proposition 8 did not result in more crime,” said Protect Marriage rep Frank Schubert. “But if it did, it did so on both sides.”

If Prop 8 protesters were responsible for increasing hate crimes, however, the data does not reflect a substantial increase in crimes against, say, Christians or Republicans. Though the new figures mark a tripling of anti-gay hate crimes in the county, hate crimes in general in the area remained relatively constant last year. In 2007, 3 out of 20 hate crimes were anti-gay; in 2008, 14 out of 25 were.

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