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Levy, Brian L. & Levy, Denise L. (2017). When Love Meets Hate: The Relationship between State Policies on Gay and Lesbian Rights and Hate Crime Incidence. Social Science Research, 61, 142-159. PMCID: PMC5124441


Do public policies on gay and lesbian rights affect the incidence of hate crimes based on sexual orientation? We propose that legal inequalities increase hate crimes because they provide discursive opportunities for bias, discrimination, and violence. Legal equality, however, will reduce violence. Using annual panel data from 2000 to 2012, a period of substantial policy change, we analyze how three state policies affect reported hate crimes: same-sex partnerships, employment non-discrimination, and hate crime laws. Hate crime and employment non-discrimination laws that include sexual orientation reduce hate crime incidence. Partnership recognition increases reported hate crimes, though it may not increase actual crime incidence. Because incidence is spatially correlated, policy changes in one state yield spillover benefits in other states. These results provide some of the first quantitative evidence that public policies affect hate crimes based on sexual orientation. Findings confirm the roles of institutional heterosexism and discursive opportunities in producing hate crimes.


Reference Type

Journal Article

Year Published


Journal Title

Social Science Research


Levy, Brian L.
Levy, Denise L.