The hate crimes bill known as the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was approved to be included in a major defense bill today, according to the South Florida Blade.
The bill was passed as a stand-alone bill in April by the House of Representatives, “but the Senate in July approved the measure as an amendment to its version of the defense authorization bill for fiscal year 2010.”
The House vote propelled the bill that much closer to President Obama.
The bill would make hate crimes based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity illegal, among other categories, and would allow the Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of these crimes.
“What makes these crimes so odious is that they are not just crimes against individuals; they are crimes against the entire communities [which] creates environments of fear,” said Representative Jared Polis who is a supporter of the bill and a member of the LGBT community. “There is a difference between burning a cross on the lawn of an African-American family and an act of simple arson. The legislation clarifies that our country has zero tolerance for hate crimes.”
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