President Barack Obama signed a bill Wednesday that would extend hate crime protection to victims of bodily harm based on their actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The Hate Crimes Prevention Act was created after two separate bills extending hate crime protection were introduced in both the House and the Senate earlier this year. One bill was named after Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was murdered in 1998. His parents created the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which helped lobby for this legislation.
This bill allows the Justice Department to help local jurisdictions investigate possible hate crimes, where the victim was targeted because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
If a local jurisdiction is unwilling or unable to investigate or prosecute criminals that acted in a discriminatory way, like targeting the victim based on their sexual orientation, the Justice Department may take over the case and lead the investigation and prosecution.
Michael Komo, president of GW’s Allied in Pride, said he was very pleased with the legislation.
“This is the first nationwide piece of pro-equality legislation for the LGBT community. This will be beneficial to students and citizens at GW, in D.C., and around the country,” Komo said in an e-mail.
Opponents to the bill include social conservatives and the majority of Republicans in Congress.
“This hate crimes provision is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality,”Family Research Council President Tony Perkins said in a news release.
Supporters of the bill insist that it will not infringe upon anyone’s freedom of speech.
Opponents were also unhappy that the bill was attached to the Defense Department’s spending bill, which they say helped it pass so easily.