Homophobic attacks are still a big problem in America, human rights campaigners have warned after official statistics revealed that incidents based on sexual orientation were the third largest hate crime in the USA last year.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) figures released this week show that homophobic assaults made up 14.2 percent of over 7000 hate crimes, behind race and religious hatred.

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, said the numbers show the need for support in the gay community, “Sexual orientation remains the third-highest recorded bias crime in our country, which underscores that anti-gay hate crimes are a very real problem nationwide.

“It is also a stark reminder that there is an immediate need for Congress to enact the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, legislation that would expand the federal government’s reach to serious, violent hate crimes.”

He called for greater protection for all minorities from all levels of government.

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting Programme includes data from hate crime reports submitted by city, county, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement agencies throughout the US.

The majority (30 percent) of hate crime incidents in 2005 occurred in or near residences or homes; followed by 18.3 percent on highways, roads, alleys, or streets; 13.5 percent at colleges or schools; 6.6 percent in parking lots or garages; and 4.3 percent at churches, synagogues, or temples.

The remaining 27.3 percent of hate crime incidents occurred at other specified locations, multiple locations, or other/unknown locations.