President Obama intends to sign into law Wednesday a long-sought hate crimes protection measure as part of a major defense bill, according to an administration source.
The president plans to pen his name to the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill, which includes a provision known as the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The measure would make illegal hate crimes based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity, among other categories, and would allow the Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of such crimes.
The legislation has languished in Congress for 12 years, and with strong support this congressional session, lawmakers put the finishing touches on the bill this month.
The House on Oct. 8 voted in favor of the defense conference report with the hate crimes measure, 281-146, and the Senate on Thursday approved the same report, 68-29.
The defense bill includes a hate crimes provision because in July the Senate amended its version of the legislation to include such a measure.