MEMPHIS, TN (abc24.com) - Memphis made the top of another list, this time for hate crimes against gays. The FBI just released hate crime statistics for 2011 and Memphis leads the state of Tennessee with 16 cases based on sexual orientation.
"Obviously nowadays with the passage of new laws for same-sex marriages, there's more of a profile on that lifestyle, so they may be targeted a little bit more frequently than we've seen before but we work to protect every protected group," stated FBI Agent Aaron Ford, Special Agent in Charge for Memphis.
FBI officials say passage of laws sometimes make people want to act out because they disagree with certain rights that individuals have.
Jacob Flowers, Director of the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center, noted, "There are groups of people in this city that find themselves more concerned with limiting a person's human and civil rights rather than respecting them as a person."
"This one friend got jumped once and they were calling him some bad names for gays and, um, they stole his money and stuff," said Kal Dwight, describing a crime he witnessed. He feels these types of crimes have an impact on the community.
"Definitely something we want to work on in the community, work on education and expelling ignorance about who we are. We're not contagious, we are just everyday people," he added.
As for preventing hate crimes, Ford said, "As a community we need to look at education. I'm geared towards tolerance of individuals. Everybody has a place in our society and the sooner we teach our kids that every one has that place, the sooner we teach our young adults- and even older adults still have room to learn and be educated."
The gay and lesbian community now has special protection under the law. Those who commit crimes against them are susceptible to being accused of a hate crime, and will be at risk of receiving stiffer penalties.