WASHINGTON — President Obama signed his first piece of gay rights legislation Wednesday, which extends hate crime protection to victims of violence due to their gender identity, sexual orientation and disabilities.
At a signing ceremony in the White House East Room, Obama declared the new legislation has been long-awaited, but now finally protections will be to people victimized becasue of “who the love … or who they are.”
The Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act was an unlikely inclusion in this year’s Defense Authorization Act.
The bill is named after a University of Wyoming student — Matthew Shepard — who was beaten, tied to a fence and left for dead in Laramie, Wy., in 1998, and a black Texan — James Byrd, Jr. — who was dragged to his death in a racially motivated killing the same year.
The bill also removed the requirement that the victim must be participating in a federally protected activity like registering to vote, at the time of the attack.
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– Simon Husted