The U.S. House of Representatives has just approved the conference report for the FY 2010 Defense Authorization bill — which includes a federal hate crimes bill recently renamed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crime Act3 as an amendment — by a vote of 281-146. The Senate is expected to approve the conference report by early next week.
Once the conference report has Senate approval, it will go to President Obama, who has pledged to sign it into law.
The House vote moves the federal hate crimes bill closer than ever before to becoming law.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.