The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which provides new federal penalties for attacks on gay men and lesbians, passed the Senate and heads to the White House where President Obama has promised to sign it into law.
The Washington Post reports:
The measure would extend the current definition of federal hate crimes -- which covers attacks motivated by race, color, religion or national origin -- to include those based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also would make it a federal crime to attack U.S. military personnel because of their service.
The measure was approved, 68 to 29, with a majority of Republicans voting against it. The House passed the same bill Oct. 8, also with most Republicans opposed.
The New York Times says that "Federal protections for people who are victims of violent crime because of their sexual orientation have been sought for more than a decade, at least since the 1998 murder of Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming college student."
The Matthew Shepard Foundation issued this statement:
"Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes,” said Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board. “Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families."
...The Matthew Shepard Foundation applauds Congress and President Obama for their steady and successful efforts throughout 2009 to bring the legislation to this point. We eagerly anticipate its final enactment and wish to thank the countless organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly for its passage.