Just this Wednesday, President Obama made major headway for civil rights legislation when he signed called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.
It is named after Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, who were both killed due to their sexuality and ethnicity in 1998.
While hate crimes still exist, this is a major step for humanity. Check out the article below for the details:
Hate Crimes Bill Signed Into Law 11 Years After Matthew Shepard’s Death
By Rachel Weiner from the HuffingtonPost.com
President Obama signed major civil rights legislation on Wednesday, making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The new measure expands the the scope of a 1968 law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin. The U.S. Justice Department will have expanded authority to prosecute such crimes when local authorities don’t.
The provision, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is attached to a defense authorization bill. It is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year.
The measure expands current hate crimes law to include violence based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to the must-pass defense policy bill over the steep objections of many Republicans.
The measure was a priority of the late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., that had been on the congressional agenda for a decade. During the signing ceremony, Obama acknowledged Shepard’s mom, Judy, and remembered that he had told her this day would come. He also gave a nod to Kennedy’s family. Going forward, Obama promised, people will be protected from violence based on “what they look like, who they love, how they pray or why they are.”
Read or watch President Obama’s remarks before signing the legislation:
“After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we’ve passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I’m glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I’m also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who’s here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day — make this day possible. So — and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.) So, with that, I’m going to sign this piece of legislation.”