Senate Approves Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act 68-29


October 22, 2009

Today, the United States Senate took an historic step toward ensuring justice for the victims of hate crimes targeted for violence due to their sexual orientation, gender, gender identity or disability.

"Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes,” said Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board. “Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families."

By voting overwhelmingly to extend to these often-targeted Americans our nation’s decades-old bias crime legislation, senators sent the message that hate crimes will not go unpunished, and local governments and law enforcement agencies will not run out of financial resources to provide justice to these victims and their loved ones.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act was attached earlier this year to the annual Defense Department spending bill, and Thursday’s 68-29 Senate vote to approve the final House-Senate compromise on the defense bill now sends this important law enforcement provision to President Obama, who has vowed to sign it.

Under the legislation, federal prosecutors could step in to try violent hate-crime cases if local authorities cannot or will not secure an appropriate conviction. It also opens up federal funding for law enforcement to handle the typically high cost of investigation and judicial proceedings in such cases, and would make grants available for training and prevention programs at the local level.

The act is named to honor Matthew Shepard as well as James Byrd, an African-American resident of Texas brutally dragged to death in 1998 in a notorious hate crime. Matthew’s parents Dennis and Judy Shepard have campaigned for the legislation’s passage for more than a decade since their son’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998 in an anti-gay hate crime.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation applauds Congress and President Obama for their steady and successful efforts throughout 2009 to bring the legislation to this point. We eagerly anticipate its final enactment and wish to thank the countless organizations and individuals who have worked tirelessly for its passage.


  1. Bayley says

    Well, it’s about time!
    This is very promising news indeed. Not just for today, but for time to come.

  2. John says

    CQ is reporting that it’ll be sent to the president by the end of the day. But he’ll probably hold onto it until next week, so that Judy Shepard and other family members can fly into Washington to attend the signing.

  3. ichabod says

    Hooray! Now to pass ENDA and repeal DADT and DOMA…

    But still, a day (and a victory) to savor! A sincere “Thank You!” to all who voted “yes”.

  4. James says

    Didn’t Obama say he would veto the Defense Department appropriations bill? Why do I remember a report of him saying he wouldn’t sign this bill?

  5. RJP3 says

    James he said he would veto a bill if funding for an un-needed expensive military plane (I believe) was included … it was scraped.

    This is a done deal !!

    It took over 10 years but it is done!

    OBAMA – Change I can believe in !

    BTW — McCain said he would VETO any bill that came to his desk with hate crime protection for gay people. The GOP is EVIL.
    So evil DEMOCRATS fund Log Cabin.

  6. ricardo says

    hey andy….
    in the midst of things — contrived and real — it’s amazing that more gay men haven’t stepped up to the plate. after years in working with some of the most stupid people i’ve ever had in my life — people want me to have patience. since they can’t step up to the plate and help with something as basic as shoulder assistance — truly, i can say that i’ve never, ever, never worked with people so incredibly stupid — the pinnacle in ignorance and sheer morons. this is good news, yet, considering that employees at the Abbey in west hollywood embrace hateful ventures — please take note of the odd sources for such just the same. few, not many, people have made efforts when you consider the population of particular subcultures — hands down, quote me — ‘the MOST stupid’ people EVER without a doubt and when i encountered that vapidity at the Abbey — i was left pondering, BEST gay bar in the world — JOKE and pathetic consideration, yet, when you’ve got young faggots who don’t even recognize how much of their culture was decimated by AIDS — is it surprising??

  7. says

    “But the inclusion of the hate crimes provision in the defense bill came to the consternation of some Republican senators, including Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz), who on the Senate floor called the inclusion of the provision an “abuse of the Senate process.””

    Take that, log cabinites!

    And it was introduced in the Senate by Patrick Leahy (D-VT)


  8. Tralfaz says

    Uh, Ricardo what in the living FUCK does the Abbey in WeHo have to do with this? Are you on crack?

  9. crispy says

    Will somebody please tell WTF “shoulder assistance” means? I’m really worried about Ricardo’s shoulder!

  10. Michael @ says


    And Brava to Judy Shepard who turned her grief into a crusade to prevent other mothers from getting the same call.

    In my heart I kneel down…..

  11. says

    Very encouraging news, far too long coming, and an example of the real difference between the parties. Let’s hope the Democrats will continue to do the right thing while they have the power to make a difference.

    And a big hug to Judy Shepard for her tireless advocacy.

    P.S. Ricardo, you should really try a different translation program.

  12. Paul R says

    I think Ricardo wants a shoulder to cry on because of all the confused looks he gets whenever he tries to form a sentence.

  13. clint says

    Andrew Sullivan has a shit fit over any hate crimes bill, but he has said repeatedly that if you’re gonna have hate crimes laws, they had better apply to everybody. So the shit fit won’t be as shitty as you’d like it to be.

  14. Attmay says

    “A big step for sure. Now let’s enforce it.”

    We can start by throwing Pat Robertson in jail.

  15. JT says

    Sounds like a good thing. But how long will it be before pc gays (and some straights) start calling this racist because more people of color will be prosecuted?

  16. niles says

    Congratulation and a big thank you to the tireless efforts of Mrs. Shepherd and others who made this possible. A hero is someone who works through the pain of loss to bring good to others – and you are clearly a hero in anyone’s book.

  17. Jason says

    Hey Andy:

    Don’t forget to include the protections the act has for people based on gender identity. This really was a huge victory for the united LGBT community. Let’s get moving on ENDA now. WOO!

  18. 24play says

    DR, here’s the roll call:

    Here are the 10 brave Republicans who voted for the bill:

    McCain (AZ)
    Lugar (IN)
    Collins (ME)
    Snowe (ME)
    Bond (MO)
    Ensign (NV)
    Gregg (NH)
    Voinovich (OH)
    Cornyn (TX)
    Hutchison (TX)

    If you see your senator in that list, be sure and make a call or send a quick email to say how much you appreciate that he or she took a principled stand. Also tell them you look forward to their support on a trans-inclusive ENDA when it comes up for a vote this winter.

    The one Democrat who voted against was Feingold (WI)—I assume based on objections to the military spending bill to which the hate crimes measure was attached.

    Independents Lieberman (CT) and Sanders (VT) both voted for the bill.

  19. Disgusted American says

    Judy Sheperd….May you Finally take that Long deserved SIGH of relief….thinking of you on such an Important day!

  20. Mr Chris says

    This is not for just Judy. BUT FOR ALL AMERICANS who kids that are Gay and died at the hands of HATE! How Judy we do appreciate your tireless efforts on this.

    Thanks to Congress for this VERY IMPORTANT Bill.. Now all we need is BHO to sign it and it’s a done deal!

  21. BubbaInTX says

    Hmmm…I see that the Republican Senators from my state (TX) voted for the bill. But trust me–this was not an act of bravery. Chances are they held their noses regarding the hate crimes legislation because they didn’t want to look like they didn’t “support the troops” by not approving the overall bill. I’m pretty sure the same is true for all the other Republicans who voted “Aye” (see McCain’s comment about abuse of the process). So let’s not give them TOO much credit, m’kay?

  22. John says


    That’s generally true.

    Except for Snowe and Collins, of course, who were co-sponsors of the original bill.

    McCain was definitely against the hate crimes provision. He spent quite a bit of time bitching about how Reid was “forcing” him to promote homosexuality. But since it was attached to defense spending, the old hawk just couldn’t say no. We certainly dodged a bullet when we didn’t elect this nutjob and his beauty queen partner.

  23. says

    This is a great day for equality. This bill is the first major gay rights bill passed federally perhaps ever. It should be no where near enough to appease gay voters and activists for this congressional session, but if we could pass this and/or an ENDA, or a repeal DADT and/or DOMA (or at least the parts of it which allow and promote federal discrimination against gay people), I think we’ve gone a HUGE way toward improving lives for glbt people in America… and if we could pass that second or third bill, then yes, I think we should all be very helpful and supportive of incumbent democrats next election cycle. However, we can’t let Democrats pass this bill, pat themselves on the back and think to themselves, “this is enough.” Reality is this was the lowest hanging fruit on the tree, as important as it was and as appreciative as I am that it passed.

  24. says


    A great day for the country and for the LGBT community. Thank you to the men and women who have fought so hard, so a day like this could finally come. Next up, ENDA! Let’s get it done by the end of the year!

    I actually used to be opposed to Hate Crime bills, until I got some friendly education about their definitions and protections. I thought only protected minority groups were provided protection, not that all people were provided protection based on certain traits that all of us possess (Religion affiliation, race, gender, sexual orientation, etc).

    I understand that these laws are most commonly used to protect minority classes, but thats because those are most frequently types of crimes that are committed. I’ve never heard of a group of transwomen beating some random guy up for having a different gender identity than they do.

    All in all, I much prefer posts like this. All the comments are positive and optimistic. There aren’t even page long arguments about who is and isn’t on our side. If only all news was good news. Michael@leonard, David, Mark, everyone… Group hug! :)

  25. says

    I think this is a well intended but confusing “victory” for sexual minorities.

    The reason is that the federal government gay/bi/trans and otherwise identified people’s biggest enemies. DOMA, Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and the suppression of marriage rights are all federal issues.

    If the feds are going to investigate the root cause of sexual minority violence and the long-standing homophobia, they need to start with themselves.

    The side effect of prejudice is prejudicial behavior.

  26. DR says

    Actually, the Senator from Wisconsin didn’t vote for it because he felt it was not appropriate to tag this on to a bill which gives increases in pay raises to soldiers and the other military necessities included in the main bill.

    Personally, I’ve never been a big fan of Hate Crimes Legislation. I’m actually underwhelmed by the idea that now we get special protection for being gay, where if someone assaults me for being white, male, or Christian, it’s much less likely I’ll be considered a victim.

    Without uniform application, which clearly is not happening unless you assume that really only white men commit hate crimes, this is special protection. Not interested. I’d rather focus my energy on marriage equality and DADT.

  27. DR says

    oops, I misspoke and withdraw my comment about Feingold. I read the original article too quickly.

  28. Derrick from Philly says

    “Sounds like a good thing. But how long will it be before pc gays (and some straights) start calling this racist because more people of color will be prosecuted?”

    Why? Because white gay-bashers can get away with it?

    You couldn’t resist, hunh, JT? Caughtcha’

  29. OnyxEsq says

    JT, based on what evidence can you confirm that more minorities will be prosecuted under this new law? Most hate crimes against gays and lesbians in the USA are committed by Whites, not people of color. Get your facts straight honey, and stop with the racist BS. Thanks.

  30. says

    it’s a shame that something like this could not stand on its own instead of being attached to an unrelated bill.

    Oh well, it is for the greater good.

  31. DR says

    @ OnyxEsq

    And therein lays the problem. I do not believe that white, straight, Christian men comprise 70%+ of all hate crime perps.

    I find that prosecutors and cops are less likely to find hate crimes in minority-on-minority crime or minority-on-white crime. One of the reasons I hate these statutes.

    While they are “neutral” in wording, they generally are NOT neutral in application. As was put by the AG, these laws are designed to protect those who traditionally face persecution due to *insert x characteristic here*, which means, by their nature, they are somewhat discriminatory in nature.

  32. John says


    Statistically, white male offenders should comprise 70% plus of all hate crime cases.

    Whites are 80% of the general population. And regardless of race, males are far more likely to commit felonies than women. There are many competing theories as to why that is – genetics, evolution, cultural influences, environmental influences, social institutions, and so forth. But I doubt you’d find too many scientists who’ll dispute that the gender disparity exists. As for “Christian,” I think that’s purely coincidental. The white people in America, by and large, are Christian. If they were all Muslim, would that really change anything?

  33. DR says

    John, yes, the stats exist and I spent a few hours pouring over them. And some more time trying to make sense of them.

    I am still not convinced that these laws are being applied fairly or neutrally. There is a lot of literature out there about not wanting to prosecute minority-on-minority crime as hate crimes, for example. And I am most certainly concerned that attorneys will state that these laws are designed to protect “groups with a history of persecution” and then claim they are race neutral.

    It makes for a good sound bite, but I am not convinced that these laws are being applied fairly.

  34. Derrick from Philly says

    “…minority-on-white crime.”

    Usually robbery. You can’t prove it’s a hate crime if property theft is involved…and if there is accompanying violence it usually aint because the victim is white–it’s difficult to prove anyway.

    Rarely do white on minority violence involve robbery. The motivation is clearly hatred, and an attack on the whole group.

    A clear exception was that case in New York (Michael Sandy) where the white attackers had robbery in mind. The poster, 24PLAY, and I argued over whether that “white on black” robbery was also a hate crime. I thought, “yes”. 24PLAY convinced me that as heinous the crime was (resulting in Sandy’s death)–you could not prove it was a hate crime.

  35. says

    Where’s the HRC bashing now? Judy Shepard (an HRC board member, by the way) deserves so much thanks for her hard work on this bill, which she has rightfully been granted by the comments. But (not surprisingly) no love for HRC, which apparently doesn’t deserve recognition even when they do something right.

  36. Vivian says

    Did anyone catch Judy Shepherd on the Ellen Degeneres show. This appearance of Judy Shepherd on her show was for the most part viewed positively by her facebook followers based on my read of the posted wall comments on facebook. Am interested to hear what others have to say about Ellen and her involvement in the cause against hate crimes.

  37. Leah Martinho says

    November 1, 2009

    My 17 year old jumped by 4 older men and a woman in Wishram Washington

    Our 17-year-old son beaten. Four adult males and a woman in wishram Washington. Since, we have been here. This is as of today 1 month. We have been terrorized. Last night my husband was jumped by another man who was enjoying the entertainment of watching another mob fight, everyone standing around watching including adults watching , the adults from the bar also, the adults having a party next door to us, including one man in his 30’s who came out side to help the punks of wishram beat my 17 year old and try to kill him, this man in his 30’s I hear has aids, he kicked my son numerous times and threw undercut punches numerous times while my son was laying on the ground. What was the reason for this terrible beating down of a 17 year old? We are the new people in town,” that is their excuse. (Excuse me,) for being homeless, no jobs, without a car, almost starving, no showers, and still pressing on looking for work everyday, even having an individual who works for an organization that gives free showers in The Dalles ridicule my 17 year old son because he needs to use their shower. The first of school, he walks in with joy because he gets to go to school, only to leave in tears, because the person in charge of the facility. Ridiculed him, belittled him, because he needed a clean town! Sleeping at Rest Areas all summer, on the pavement in front of the car that we did have, which was his also, but wrecked on his way back from Biggs after a shower was given to him from a wonderful couple who loves Jesus and lives on the road as truck drivers.

    As my husband looked for our two sons. It was getting late. We all had work in the morning. Son Lee starts school Tuesday again at the Community College in The Dalles. My other two sons’ Chris Jr. and Moke’ just obtained jobs yesterday. In addition, as the Mom just started a new job
    This would have been the third day at work.

    My husband seen a fight at the basketball court, Adults from the bar just standing there watching. Crowds standing there watching. He had seen that no one was helping the kid getting beat up. While this young man was beating on another kid. He could not stand to see this, so he proceeded to walk over there and try to encourage the young men to stop. Some larger young man began throwing punches at he (husband) (with out a cause). My husband was able to dodge the blows, but he by the man on the tip of his nose. He comes back to tell he did not find the two boys Then he proceeded out the door to search again for our two boys again.

    He had seen a mob of 25 people or more across from the church. In addition, my youngest son Lee standing in the midst of the crowd surrounded by them “crying and bleeding profusely”, my husband drove up to the crowd, the crowd then disperses and disappears into the darkness. He brings our sons to home. He proceeds to call 911 and the police. They show up, the medics, comprised of this little town called Wishram in Washington. They check over our son, and we let them know that we are taking his to the hospital. The police take our reports, then, try to investigate the neighbors next door and some of the young men who were all adults involved in the beating of our 17-year-old son. We did not see any one go to jail. It was obvious that this was a planned deal with this little town of Wishram.

    We told the police we wanted to press charges. In addition, nothing came of it. It is now day light. We are going into Oregon to follow up on this matter. We will follow-up with the Authorities that be and the Hospital.

    Please let the country know. That being a Bully is unacceptable.

    Leah Martinho

    November 3, 2009

    On the night of Oct. 31, 2009 our son who is 17 was beaten down by 4 Caucasian men and one Caucasian woman. With a crowd of 25 or more around him. Standing taking a tremendous beating from these adult men and a woman. He cried out, “please stop, please stop, please stop. They would not stop. Instead, my son and his older brother said they heard a male yell out, “the big guy is not going down”. So, more came in proceeded to kick my son all over his body, from head to toe with their boots and punch him with their fists, over and under punches. Taking hits to the back of his head and front of his face continuously, he continued to stand, crying out, “please stop, please stop, please stop”. Then he dropped to his knees, while this crowd of more than 25 by now kept lunging at him with tremendous force, taking more than 15 punches to his nose, and multiple hits to the rest of his body, no one would stop. Until my sons’ dad drove up. The crowd breaking up and disappearing into the darkness. My husband distraught from the sight of our son.

    No one was arrested!

    Yesterday on November 2, 2009. We went to the sheriffs office to ask for copies of the all the reports, seeking help for this matter. Only to walk away feeling help-less. Not one arrest and this is Nov. 3, 2009

    The deputy that night told us they [this little town] does this to all new people, but never to this extent.
    The community surrounding this town. [ outside of it, even across the bridge into Oregon] said, they have heard of this town doing such things and they stay away. Allot of young men and women told my family they too were attacked physically when coming to visit and could do nothing about it. There are neighbors who live by us. They too, have been beaten down, from old men to young teenage girls.

    Why is this allowed in the county of Klickitat? Why does not the authorities take action and stop this “bullying”, stop the “terrorism”, stop the “discrimination”, STOP THE BEATINGS!

    Our son has a broken nose, bruises through-out his body, open wounds throughout his body, his ankle nearly broke from all the kicking, his legs bruised from the kicking. Not to mention the horrible sleepless nights and pain he is suffering from the attack, the violation of his youth and person.

    Our family is still here in this little town. With no where else to go. We are looking for another rental on the Oregon side. It is not easy with just starting jobs, only a small amount of money. We are prisoners in this town right now.

    We are “Prisoners of War”.

    Leah Martinho

    Yesterday on November 3, 2009. I proceeded to keep writing Newspapers about the incident that happened to my 17 year old on Oct. 31, 2009 in Wishram, Washington. I finally received a call from the Chief Prosecutor in Goldendale, Washington. He said, it was the first he had heard about the incident. He seemed concerned. At the same time until the paper work was ready, he could do nothing.

    In the middle of all of this mess. My job was lost. Yes, why? I don’t know. I followed all the required procedures. We are to call in 2 hours before the shift starts. My training shift started at 9am the morning of Nov. 1, 2009. I called in the first time at 2:30 a.m. after the police left and the medics left my home.

    I spent the next day at the hospital in The Dalles, Oregon. During that time I called 2 more times. My boss was not in the lady that answered said. She was very abrupt with me. As if, I had done something or should have never been born. The evening crew there were continually cruel to me. I did nothing to provoke them to anger. They just didn’t like me. I felt unusually uncomfortable.

    Again, I checked in to talk to my boss. Still, they told me out front she was not there. Come to find out she was there. Because, of the cruelty shown to me from the managers at that store that were below my boss. I proceeded to gather my training material. Then proceeded to take it in to the store to return. I had not had a return call from my boss at that point. When I walked into the store at 11:00 a.m. Tuesday on Nov. 3, 2009. I saw my boss and she saw me. She did not respond to me as she did before. Her look was that of “you are fired”! She then proceeded to ignore me. So, I laid my paperwork and training material on the counter and walked out.

    At that point I knew that she or the crew had somehow made a decision to not keep me on at the store. I can’t express how deeply sad I am. Having gone through so much this year and last. And to have been discriminated against {my family as a whole} in Wishram, Washington. Then, to feel the same way walking into the store and then out. Tears wanted to well up. I kept them in. Working hard to be strong and courageous for my family.

    This morning I woke up only to pick the phone up. Calling my boss. I proceeded to let her know, that I needed an explanation for the reason I had not received a phone call back? Her reason was not the right answer. She told me I threw my books on the counter and left. She then assumed I had quit. Not so! I told her, I had called, even walked into the store many times asking for her and they told me she was not there. She told me, she had returned at 3pm yesterday. I told her , I called even after that. The person I talked to told me, she was not there.
    I said, I need an explanation. She said, Well, you came in and threw your files on the counter. I said, No! And proceeded to hang up.

    Biggs, Oregon is right across the bridge from Wishram, Oregon. I can assume all kinds of things. All I know, is I did everything I was suppose to do according the policy of the company. In response, from them, I received nothing. How does a person, a mom, who just had her son beat up, in the hospital and dealing with the legalities of the situation, deal with the loss of her job as well. A job she just got not 2 days earlier? Please tell me where is the justice in this?
    Why is this happening to me? I can’t even ask that. It’s just the way it is.

    My 17 year old is still extremely bruised. His nose is broken, the cuts, bruises, sprains through out his body is still very obvious. He is a Gentle Giant with the tenderness that this world will never understand.

    We are still here in this little town of Wishram, Washington. Stuck! With no where else to go.


    “Prisoners of War”.


    Leah Martinho

    I am so disappointed that since my 17 year old son was beaten down on main street in Wishram Washington NO ONE HAS BEEN ARRESTED! This is and was a Hate Crime. My son large for his age and brown skin in color was beaten down walking home with his brother on Halloween night. One of the persons is a gay man with HIV. I am not prejudice at all. I am reading about the new laws passing and am excited for all concerned. At the same time. Who will protect my son and my family from these Hate Crimes? We are not like the people around here. We don’t get our cookies off by persecuting a new person or beating them because they are not white and new in town. We just want to live. We were unable to pay our rent because we fled the town to get my son out of here for fear of our lives. Of course we had to return with no where else to go. Upon returning our neighbor told us he had found homemade bombs at our back door. Now, what is that about? Are we going to be able to sleep? We continue to feel fearful, abused, unable to rest, and now facing homelessness once again. What are we to do? Is there anyone to help this family in fear?