The White House indicated in early August that President Bush would veto any Congressional efforts to extend federal hate crimes legislation to cover gender identity and expression. Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts has attached the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, to a defense authorization bill scheduled for reconsideration by the Senate in September or October.
President Bush contends that the qualifications in the bill are so broad that virtually any crime involving LGBT individuals would hold the potential to be considered a hate crime. He pledged to reject the measure even if doing so meant the defense authorization bill would be sent back to Congress. A coalition of religious leaders also opposes the legislation on the grounds that it would suppress freedom of speech and religious expression by limiting their ability to speak about morality.
According to proponents, the legislation would strengthen the ability of federal, state and local governments to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, among other factors. It would also enable the Justice Department to assist in the investigation and prosecution of hate crimes, and provide grants to help state and local governments meet the expenses involved in hate crime cases.
The House of Representatives voted to pass the expanded hate crime legislation in May.