U.S. Senate passes historic hate crimes bill that would protect gays

US Capitol

The Senate cleared a historic hate crimes bill Thursday for President Obama’s signature, approving new federal penalties for attacks on gay men and lesbians.

The legislation, which was attached to the conference report for the bill outlining the Pentagon‘s budget, marks the culmination of a years-long fight by civil rights groups to codify the expanded protections.

The measure would extend the current definition of federal hate crimes — which covers attacks motivated by race, color, religion or national origin — to include those based on sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It also would make it a federal crime to attack U.S. military personnel because of their service.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is named for Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in 1998, and Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck in Texas in 1998. Shepard’s family founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which helped lobby for the measure.

The measure was approved, 68 to 29, with a majority of Republicans voting against it. The House passed the same bill Oct. 8, also with most Republicans opposed.

Full story at The Washington Post.

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