President Barack Obama has signed a bill to expand the federal hate crimes law.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, named after two men who were killed more than 10 years ago because of their sexual orientation, was included in a defense bill that Obama signed on Oct. 28, 2009.
"After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed 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," Obama said.
The law essentially expands the current statute to include any crime instigated by a person's gender, sexual orientation or disability.
The signing was hailed by gay rights groups.
"Today's signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality," said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.
We rate this a Promise Kept.
Congress is considering legislation that would send more resources to local efforts against hate crimes, including those involving sexual orientation and gender identity.
President Barack Obama issued a statement in support on April 28, 2009:
"This week, the House of Representatives is expected to consider H.R. 1913, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009. I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance — legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association. I also urge the Senate to work with my Administration to finalize this bill and to take swift action."
The bill passed the House on a vote of 249-175 the day after Obama's statement. As of this writing, the bill is awaiting consideration in the Senate.
The House bill was not named the Matthew Shepard Act, but it is identical to a Senate bill that uses the name, said Rachel Balick, a spokeswoman for the Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights advocacy group that supports the bill.
The administration appears to be strongly supporting the bill, Balick said.
"Definitely the statement was a huge show of support and we're glad to see it," she said.
The Senate must pass the bill before it becomes law, but Obama's promise here was limited to supporting the effort. Obama's statement is a significant show of support, so we rate this Promise Kept.