Obama Signs Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Bill


Photo: Hary Keely

Taking a broad step into LGBT advocacy, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law yesterday, Wednesday Oct. 28, 2009. The act now includes crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation or gender identity under the scope of hate crimes.

The bill, which is part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization act, has been in progress for the past 11 years, since the murder of 21-year-old gay student Matthew Shepard in 1998, who was tortured, tied to a fence post and left for dead. The convicted killers Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney were both sentenced to two consecutive life sentences.

As reported in The Advocate, President Obama said in a statement to the press that he promised Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, that this day would come.

“After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation that protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are,” Obama said.

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