Legislation Heads to the President’s Desk for Signing
More than a decade after it was first introduced, a bipartisan group of Senators today passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a 68-29 vote. The measure was included in the Department of Defense Authorization Conference Report passed earlier this month by the House.
Following the historic passage of this legislation, People For the American Way President Michael B. Keegan released the following statement:
"This is a key victory for the LGBT community and all those concerned with equality across the country. After more than a decade of fighting for equal protection under the law from hate crimes, Congress has affirmed that no one should be forced to live in fear of violence because of who they are.
"Hate crimes legislation has consistently been demonized by the right wing and their allies in Congress. They've said that the bill would punish preachers for speaking out against homosexuality, and religious leaders and their supporters would be jailed. They portrayed the hate crimes legislation as a 'threat to religious liberty,' and spread the lie that churches will be silenced if this bill passed. Today's strong bipartisan vote should put an end to such misrepresentations.
"Each year, thousands of Americans become victims of violent crimes because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, and disability. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevent Act will direct important federal resources to help local law enforcement fight violent hate crimes, and authorizes federal law enforcement to step in when locals don't. Today's vote is all the more important because it marks the first time gender identity will receive positive protection in federal law.
"We celebrate passage of this legislation with millions of Americans who believe that we are all created equal, and say to them that there's much more work to be done. We thank President Obama for his support for this legislation, and look forward to him signing it into law."