House Passes Matthew Shepard Act

The House this afternoon passed an expanded hate crimes bill that would protect gay victims, and its chief sponsor in the Senate called for prompt final action.

The measure passed 249-175 over the objections of conservatives, the Associated Press reports.

The bill -- named for Matthew Shepard, the gay college student who was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998 -- is a stronger version of a bill that died two years ago under a veto threat from President Bush.

By contrast, President Obama supports it. The chief sponsor in the Senate is Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, who issued a statement this afternoon:

“I commend the House for its action to strengthen the inadequate existing federal law on hate crimes. No members of society – none – deserve to be victims of a violent crime because of their race, their religion, their ethnic background, their disability, their gender, their gender identity, or their sexual orientation. It’s long past time for Congress to do more to prevent hate crimes and insist that they be fully investigated and prosecuted when they occur. This important legislation is supported by a broad coalition of over 300 law enforcement, civic, religious and civil rights organizations and I look forward to prompt action by the Senate.”

Democratic National Committee chairman Tim Kaine chimed in:

“The House of Representatives took an important step today to close gaps in federal hate crimes law and ensure further protections for all American citizens who fall victim to violent crimes of intolerance. The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act allocates crucial federal resources to assist states and local law enforcement in their efforts to prevent and prosecute hate crimes, while also maintaining individuals’ rights to freedom of speech and association. More than 300 organizations representing law enforcement, civic, civil rights and religious groups have voiced their strong support for this long-overdue legislation. I congratulate the House of Representatives, and I urge the Senate to take swift action on this important civil rights issue so that the President may sign the bill into law.”

Read the original article at The Boston Globe

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