The US House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday, October 8, 2009, on a 281 to 146 vote that will expand the definition of “hate crimes” under federal laws. The act expands federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender and disability. According to the Washington Post, 131 Republicans and 15 Democrats voted against the bill.
According to the New York Times, the bill, known as the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, is attached to a military policy bill that authorizes military pay and weapons programs, among other provisions. Republican Representative Todd Akin (MO-2), who is a ranking member of the House Armed Services Committee, called the addition of the hate crimes legislation to the military spending bill a “poison pill.”
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told the Washington Post “Monday is the 11th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard, and we want in the same week of that tragic event to call the public’s attention once again to people acting upon their hatred in a violent way.”