Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

I’d be remiss if I didn’t call this out: at long last, we have finally seen legislation passed and signed into law that makes it a federal crime to commit violent acts based on actual or perceived disability and sexual orientation or gender identity, just like it is with race, color, religion, national origin, or gender.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act has become law.

Normally I’d be gushing about what a long overdue relief this is, but I think Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign summed it up nicely. As President of an organization that has lobbied for this tirelessly for many years, I figured I’d give him the last word:

“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.

“We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate. We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue. Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends ‘a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.’ This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law. And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice,” said Solmonese.

Thank you, Joe. And thanks to the many Congressional members of the House of Representatives and the Senate who passed this law, and to President Obama for not being a douchebag and threatening it with a veto (I’m talking about you, W!)

Now, on to ending “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” and the Defense of Marriage Act!

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