House Bill Adds Hate-Crime Coverage for Gays
Dems secure victory by attaching measure to defense funding measure
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 8, 2009 6:33 PM CDT
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives for her weekly news conference on Capitol Hill today.   (AP Photo)
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(Newser) – The House voted today to make it a federal crime to assault people because of their sexual orientation, significantly expanding the hate-crimes law enacted in the days after Martin Luther King Jr.'s assassination in 1968. With expected passage by the Senate, and President Obama promising to sign the legislation, federal prosecutors will for the first time be able to intervene in cases of violence perpetrated against gays.

The measure is attached to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill; it prevailed 281-146, with 15 Democrats and 131 Republicans in opposition. "It's a very exciting day for us here in the Capitol," said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, noting that it's been 11 years since gay Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard, whose name was attached to the legislation, was murdered.