Yesterday afternoon, the Senate voted to pass the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill. The final vote was 68-29.
The Unitarian Universalist Association, its Member Congregations, individuals across the nation, and staff at the Washington Office for Advocacy have worked for over a decade to pass this bill. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act expands the federal definition of a hate crime to include any and all violent crimes committed based on the victim’s actual or perceived disability, gender, gender identity, or sexual orientation. Opponents of the bill sought to make crimes prosecuted under this new statute subject to the death penalty, but this measure was defeated and was not included in the final version of the bill. President Obama is expected to sign to Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law before the end of October.
Thank you to everyone who has worked so hard to pass this historic piece of legislation. The passage of this bill marks a milestone in the long struggle to seek justice for violence based on a person’s identity. This is also the first time that the federal government has passed any law that specifically protects transgender people. Please visit the website Love Conquers Hate for a retrospective of work on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act and to share your thoughts. We hope you will continue to work with us towards the day when all people are afforded the respect and equality that they inherently deserve.