Obama passes hate crimes bill

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.
President Barack Obama, reacts with the mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy Shepard, second left, and James Byrd Jr.'s sisters, Louvon Harris, left, and Betty Byrd Boatner, second right, during a White House reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)
President Barack Obama, reacts with the mother of Matthew Shepard, Judy Shepard, second left, and James Byrd Jr.'s sisters, Louvon Harris, left, and Betty Byrd Boatner, second right, during a White House reception commemorating the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

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.

To read more about this story, visit The Miami Herald.

– Simon Husted

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