Hate Crimes Bill Clears Major Hurdle

Human Rights

For years, advocates for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community have sought passage of a hate crimes statute that would make, under certain circumstances, violence against LGBT people (and other minority constituencies) subject to federal prosecution.  Last night, the Senate brought that effort a big step closer to becoming law.

In voting to cut off debate on the measure, senators guaranteed it a vote.  But there's a catch: the act is attached to a defense authorization bill -- one that President Obama has promised to veto if it contains spending for new fighter jets he says we just don't need.  And, guess what?  Funding for the F-22 warplanes is part of the bill, as well.

What happens next is anybody's guess, but Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he's optimistic that the hate crimes measure will be part of whatever version of the defense bill actually wins passage.  Here's The Advocate's Kerry Eleveld:

The Senate voted 63-28 Thursday night to end discussion on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which was subsequently adopted by unanimous consent as an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill.

“The Senate made a strong statement this evening that hate crimes have no place in America,” said Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.  “This is a victory for all Americans – particularly those like Judy Shepard who has endured what no mother should ever have to.” 

Though the amendment garnered three votes more than necessary to reach cloture, the fate of the hate crimes measure is now partially linked to $1.75 billion in funding for F-22 fighter jets that is also included in the DOD legislation.


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