The U.S. Senate voted 60-39 on Sept 27 to enhance the federal government’s power to prosecute hate crimes, and to include protections for LGBT victims, through passage of the Matthew Shepard Act. Named for the gay Wyoming college student brutally murdered in 1998, the measure was amended to the 2008 Department of Defense Authorization bill.
If signed into law by President Bush, the Matthew Shepard Act would grant the federal government more scope to investigate and prosecute hate crimes and increase federal jurisdiction on such crimes. It would also add the categories of disabilities, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to the groups currently protected under law.
A confluence of high-profile, alleged bias assaults and murders in the New York area over the past year demonstrates the human cost of hate.