Federal Anti-gay hate crimes bill passes House , to Senate next
Susan Marie Kovalinsky | October 8, 2009 at 02:50 pmby
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A federal anti-gay hate crimes bill sails through the house and will go before the Senate in the next few days.
The bill is the first federal advance since 1968. It is covered under Defense funding, which made several GOP leaders balk.
Reporting from Washington - A long-debated bill to strengthen the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against gays moved through the Democratic-controlled House today over Republican objections that it was attached to a defense bill.
The measure, expected to go before the Senate within days, had faced a veto threat from President George W. Bush, but enjoys President Obama's support. The Human Rights Campaign, a gay rights group, said the vote puts the bill "closer to becoming law than ever before."
"It's a very exciting day for us here in the Capitol," House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco) said, noting that she has pushed for strengthening the law since her arrival in Congress 22 years ago.
"What makes these crimes so bad is they are not just crimes against individuals; they are crimes against entire communities," openly gay Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.) said during the debate.
White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said that the president looks forward to signing the bill.
"As the president said back in April, the hate-crimes bill takes on an important civil rights issue to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association," he said.
The legislation -- the first major expansion of the 1968 hate-crimes law -- would expand the law to cover acts of violence motivated by a victim's sexual orientation, gender, disability or gender identity. Existing federal law defines hate crimes as those motivated by bias based on religion, race, national origin or color.
Rhonda J Mangus