Late yesterday evening, the Senate added the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909) as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization bill, S. 1390. Passage of this bi-partisan amendment, offered by Senators Leahy, Collins, Kennedy, and Snowe, will extend important protections to victims of violent hate crimes commited based on someone's actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and/or disability. Following the bi-partisan passage of the amendment, People For the American Way (PFAW) President Michael B. Keegan released this statement:
"We join advocates for equal justice across the country in celebrating this hard fought step forward in the Senate. By expanding current protections that exist for victims of violent hate crimes, the Senate affirmed our nation has a zero tolerance policy for targeted violence and that equality is indeed the American Way. It is our hope that with the passage of the amendment, along with the overwhelming bi-partisan passage of it's counterpart in the House, that we will push through all of the political bickering and red-tape and give the President the opportunity to sign strong hate crimes legislation into law. Equal justice under the law should be more than an ideal for victims of violent crimes motivated simply because of who they are.
"Going forward, PFAW and our coalition allies will keep up the pressure and mobilize fair-minded Americans to support these vital protections. Along with the African American Ministers In Action (AAMIA), who have been a critical voice in support of this legislation, we will continue to rebut the false attacks from the Religious Right. PFAW and AAMIA will work hard to ensure these protections are enacted into law and to make sure that every American can live without the threat of harassment or violence."
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