Friday, October 23, 2009
By a vote of 68-29, the U.S. Senate passed a hate crimes bill making violence against gays and lesbians a Federal crime on Thursday. The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama.
The passage of the bill is seen as a victory for civil rights groups that have long sought to expand the Federal statute beyond attacks motivated by religion, race, color or national origin.
Named in honor of Matthew Shepard, a gay student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten to death in 1998, and for James Byrd Jr., an African American in Texas who was chained to a pickup and dragged to death the same year, the bill was attached to a $680-billion Pentagon measure.
Attorney General Eric Holder, whose Justice Department would be charged with enforcing the provisions, praised the bill’s passage.
“There have been nearly 80,000 hate-crime incidents reported to the FBI since I first testified before Congress in support of a hate-crimes bill 11 years ago,” Holder said.