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Senate OKs Bill Giving Gays Hate-Crime Protection

Named for Shepard, it now heads to Obama
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 22, 2009 7:32 PM CDT
Senate OKs Bill Giving Gays Hate-Crime Protection
The bill headed to President Obama is named for Matthew Shepard, the college student beaten and left to die in 1998, reportedly for being openly gay.   (AP Photo)

(Newser) – Physical attacks on people based on their sexual orientation will join the list of federal hate crimes in a major expansion of the civil rights-era law Congress approved today and sent to President Obama. The measure, on the congressional agenda for a decade, expands current law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability; it is named for Matthew Shepard, the gay Wyoming college student murdered 11 years ago.

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To assure its passage after years of frustrated efforts, Democratic supporters attached the measure to a must-pass $680 billion defense policy bill the Senate approved 68-29. The House passed the defense bill earlier this month. Many Republicans, normally staunch supporters of defense bills, voted against the bill because of the hate-crimes provision. (Read more hate crimes stories.)

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