Eleven years after Matthew Shepard’s death, President Obama will sign the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes bill into law during a White House signing ceremony Wednesday afternoon, White House officials confirm.
The long-sought hate crimes provision is part of the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization bill and will extend federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
The passage of hate crimes legislation would allow the U.S. Justice Department to assist in the prosecution of hate crimes committed against LGBT people that result in death or serious injury. The federal government could lend its assistance to local authorities or take the lead if local officials are unwilling or unable to prosecute cases. Further, the legislation would make grants available to state and local communities to train law enforcement officials, combat hate crimes committed by juveniles and investigate bias-motivated violence.
Matthew Shepard, a gay twenty-one year old college student was brutally killed in 1998. Some of the Shepard family will be in attendance at the White House signing on Wednesday. Afterward there will be a reception with gay rights groups as well as civil rights leaders to commemorate the occasion. I guess they forgot to invite me.
The main thrust of the bill is defense policy, including authorizing $130 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The DOD Authorization bill also strips money from the Pentagon budget for the controversial F-22 Raptor. This is a classic example of how one issue gets thrown upon another upon another. It should have been a stand alone bill, honoring James Byrd, Jr. a slain African American killed by hate, and Matthew Shepard, murdered because he was gay.
But it is a law now, and just like you do not know if your doctor was first or last in his class when he graduated Med School, 20 years after we are all gone no one will know this bill to tame hate was an appendage to a military appropriations bill for the Pentagon. Ironic in a way, because gays still can't join the military, and African Americans too, were once excluded from fighting with Caucasians. Just relics of the past. Like hate may one day be.
Thank you Judy Shepard for never forgetting your son.
Thank you Mr. Obama for pushing this issue to passage.
Thank you Congress for doing something Progress-ive.