What is a Hate Crime? A Bias incident?
A hate crime is the violence of intolerance and prejudice, intended to hurt and intimidate, committed against a person, property or society that is motivated by an offender’s bias against a specific characteristic of an individual or a group because of their race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, age or physical or mental disability.
Hate crimes are criminal offenses that include acts such as physical assault, stalking, cyberstalking, criminal threatening, intimidation, terrorizing, criminal use of explosives, arson, vandalism or other damage to property, reckless conduct, harassment, verbal abuse or insults, or hate mail.
A bias incident is any event of intolerance or prejudice, not involving violence or other criminal conduct, intended to threaten, offend or intimidate another because of the other’s race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, age or physical or mental disability.
Examples of bias incidents include hate speech, gay bashing, racist epithets, religious slurs, sexist jokes or cartoons, hate mail, offensive graffiti, or disparaging remarks on social media sites. Such incidents create a socially divisive atmosphere for members of the community targeted and negatively affect the campus climate.
In Maine, several statutes provide civil and/or criminal remedies for bias incidents and hate crimes, including the Maine Human Rights Act,5 M.R.S. §4551 et seq., Maine’s Protection from Harassment Act, 5 M.R.S. §4651 et seq. and the Maine Civil Rights Act, 5 M.R.S.§4681 et seq.
Federal statutes also provide support and protection for victims of bias incidents or hate crimes, including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, 42 U.S.C. §2000e et seq., as amended, the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act (1994) and the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (2009).