Last night, the House of Representatives passed the Department of Defense Authorization by a vote of 281-146. The bill contains language that will extend important protections to victims of violent hate crimes targeted because of actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability, and expands protection based on race and religion and ethnicity. People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan issued the following statement:
"Last night's vote was an important step towards finally enacting these hate crimes protections into law. This bill will help ensure that fewer Americans will become victims of violence simply because of who they are, while at the same time providing strong First Amendment protections. Limited hate crimes protections have existed for years on the basis of race and religion. It's long past time to expand this to include other targeted groups. I'm especially proud that this bill includes protections based on gender identity-;the first time gender identity will receive positive protection in federal law.
"The public overwhelmingly supports these protections, and law enforcement groups have consistently spoken out in agreement. I hope that the Senate will act quickly to send this legislation to the President's desk. There's still much more work to do to ensure equal justice under law for gay and lesbian Americans."