With a 68-29 vote, the Senate today passed legislation that would make it a federal crime to assault an individual based on gender identity or sexual orientation. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was attached to a $680 billion defense authorization bill. President Obama has pledged to sign it.
The hate crimes provision was attached to the defense authorization bill in July and passed the House in early October by a vote of 281 - 46.
According to the Associated Press, the act is one of the most significant expansions of the law since it was enacted after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is named after two men who died in violent hate crimes in 2008. Shepard was tied up, beaten and left for dead in Laramie, Wyo. Byrd, Jr. was an African-American man who was tied to a pickup truck and dragged to death in Jasper, Texas.