Congress dropped legislation in early December that would have expanded hate crime laws to include the category of sexual orientation. Democratic House leaders said the legislation would not pass because it was attached to a major Department of Defense spending bill that would authorize more money for the war in Iraq.
The popular legislation, named for murdered gay college student Matthew Shepard and sponsored by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA), would have included sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability within the definition of hate crimes. It also would have enhanced the jurisdiction of federal authorities to investigate hate crimes, and provided $10 million over the next two years to assist local law enforcement with hate crimes prosecutions.
Liberal and conservative legislators were vexed for different reasons by legislation that would combine the issues of hate crimes and defense spending. While liberals rejected the hate crimes legislation because of its connection to the annual defense bill, conservatives did not think the issues of hate crimes and funding for the troops should be bundled.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation reported in late November that hate crimes in the United States increased eight percent in 2006. Hate crimes against gay men and lesbians in particular increased 18 percent.