Today marked a historical occasion when President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act which included the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
"The Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) civil rights organization, praised President Barack Obama today for signing the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law," said a press release issued by HRC. "The new law 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."
"This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate," said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese. "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. Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road. As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds. We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities. After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs' departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them."
Equality California Executive Director Geoff Kors said, "We are thrilled that President Obama has signed this fundamental piece of legislation, which ensures that the federal government will fulfill its obligation to protect all people of this nation, including LGBT people. We applaud the President and Congress for joining California in standing up against violence based on hate. We are especially grateful to Assemblymember Pedro Nava who authored the hate crimes resolution this year, former Senator Sheila Kuehl who authored the original California Hate Crimes Law and the LGBT Caucus and legislators who supported the numerous hate crimes bills and resolutions passed in California.”
HRC produced a tribute to the Dennis and Judy Shephard for their tireless work the last ten years to get this legislation passed and signed into law.
You can send them a note of thanks at www.LoveConquersHate.org.
For more extensive coverage, check out reporter Karen Ocamb's amazing post at LGBT POV.
Watch the president's reception live tonight at 6pm EST/3pm PST.