The U.S. Senate, following the lead of the House earlier this month, passed the Matthew Shepard—James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act late yesterday. The measure, an amendment to a necessary military-spending bill, expands federal hate-crime laws to include sexual orientation, gender, sexual identity, and disability. Named after the gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard who was beaten and left for dead in 1999 and James Byrd, a black man murdered by white supremacists in 1998, the measure has been a matter of contention for years. George Bush vowed to veto it if it ever reached his desk, and 28 Republicans voted against it (ten voted for it). According to the New York Times, Senator Jim DeMint of South Carolina said that the measure was an "Orwellian" step toward creating laws against "thought crime." President Obama has said he'll sign the bill.
Photo: Getty Images