Thursday the Human Rights Commission and the Matthew Shepard Foundation announced the passage of the The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The act, named to honor Matthew Shepard as well as James Byrd, an African-American resident of Texas brutally dragged to death in 1998 in a notorious hate crime. as a provision of the Defense Authorization Conference Report in 68 to 29 vote.
“Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes,â€ said Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board. â€œKnowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families.”
â€œWeâ€™re in the home stretch. This critical piece of legislation is on its way to the Presidentâ€™s desk for his signature,â€ said Human Rights Commission President, Joe Solmonese. â€œWe look forward to President Obama signing it into law; our nationâ€™s first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Too many in our community have been devastated by hate violence. We now can begin the important steps to erasing hate in our country.â€
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
I hope with Obama’s signature, the Shepard and Byrd families and others who have lost loved ones to violent crime biased crime, will now find at least some peace.