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Obama Signs Historic Federal LGBT Hate Crimes Legislation


After remarks on the Department of Defense authorization bill, President Barack Obama moments ago recognized Judy and Dennis Shepard and the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy before signing the bill, which contains the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd, Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Bill, into law.

Said Obama: "Now, speaking of that, there is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today. After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day -- make this day possible. So -- and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.) So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation."

Watch his remarks and read a statement from Judy Shepard, AFTER THE JUMP...

It's the first-ever passed federal LGBT civil rights legislation. A great day for America.

Check back HERE at 6:00 pm for a livestream of Obama's remarks on the hate crimes law.


After a decade of debate, persistent advocacy and 14 separate congressional floor votes, President Barack Obama today signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in a White House ceremony attended by the Shepard and Byrd families.

“When Dennis and I started calling 10 years ago for federal action to prevent and properly prosecute hate crimes against gay, lesbian and transgendered Americans, we never imagined it would take this long,” said Judy Shepard, Matthew’s mother and the president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors.

“The legislation went through so many versions and so many votes that we had to constantly keep our hopes in check to keep from getting discouraged,” she continued. “But with President Obama’s support and the continually growing bipartisan majorities in the House and Senate lining up behind the bill this year, it became clear that 2009 was the year it would finally happen.”

The legislation allows federal authorities to pursue charges in violent crimes motivated by the victim’s actual or perceived sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability, in cases where local authorities cannot or will not secure appropriate convictions. It also opens up federal aid to local law enforcement for training, prevention and investigation.

“We are incredibly grateful to Congress and the president for taking this step forward on behalf of hate crime victims and their families, especially given the continuing attacks on people simply for living their lives openly and honestly,” Shepard added. “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

The Matthew Shepard Foundation’s work for an inclusive society continues after passage of this landmark legislation. In addition to advocating for workplace and housing equality, equal rights for same-sex couples, and an end to the ban on gay and lesbian military service, the Foundation continues to reach out to schools and corporations nationwide to encourage respect for human dignity and differences.

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  1. good

    Posted by: steve | Oct 28, 2009 2:56:51 PM

  2. How nice. How happy should I be about this? Until Obama openly comes around on the same-sex marriage issue, he remains part of the problem.

    Posted by: Roscoe | Oct 28, 2009 3:13:39 PM

  3. This is a HUGE moment in LGBT civil rights history. Although GLBT persons have been frustrated with Obama, it is VERY important to note that without him, this would NOT have been possible. Bush and the moron Republicans have been staunchly fighting this since its introduction years ago. Give Obama credit here--He will fight for GLBT rights; this is his first significant step. Thank-you President Obama. We are grateful.

    Posted by: Dr. Christopher Blackwell | Oct 28, 2009 3:15:20 PM

  4. That was close. I was convinced he'd stand over the bill, smile and wink at the camera, say "naaaa, s'kidding". At least he didn't do that! That would be have been YET another betrayal from obama! rotflmao... He's got his baby toe in the water...time to go swimming.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 3:19:25 PM

  5. I give credit to Matthew Shepard mom who stood steadfast to do something for OTHERS. She is definitely a hero, a person who could have just faded away.

    Matthew would be even more proud of his mom today.


    Posted by: FunMe | Oct 28, 2009 4:05:03 PM

  6. Goddess bless the president, and may he do even more for equality in the days and years ahead!

    Posted by: Feral | Oct 28, 2009 4:13:46 PM

  7. YAY Barack!

    And thank you to Judy and Dennis Sheppard for keeping up the fight.

    Posted by: Tralfaz | Oct 28, 2009 4:15:42 PM

  8. Well, let's hope this is the first of some major changes for LGBT rights that come to his desk and get signed during his first term. I am getting frustrated that Obama refuses to spend A DIME of political capital on us, but maybe he's got the right plan. I am happy about today and hopeful for tomorrow.

    Queue up un-DOMA, un-DADT!!!

    ( and please Obama don't make me regret supporting you! )

    Posted by: Quint | Oct 28, 2009 4:32:37 PM

  9. "I was convinced he'd stand over the bill, smile and wink at the camera, say "naaaa, s'kidding". At least he didn't do that! That would be have been YET another betrayal from obama! rotflmao..."

    Is this parody or not? I can't even tell anymore.

    Posted by: Jane Doe | Oct 28, 2009 5:09:31 PM

  10. YEAH --- ten years in the making.

    Let it sink in and feel the positive energy you should feel about something good happening.

    Ying and Yang will always exist.

    The soul dies when you only focus on what is not right. This is something very good and RIGHT. SMILE.

    Tomorrow is another day to battle for another win.

    Posted by: RJP3 | Oct 28, 2009 5:14:14 PM

  11. Roscoe is right.

    We need to keep fighting even harder. Until we are equal under the law the fight must escalate.

    Posted by: Attmay | Oct 28, 2009 5:18:57 PM

  12. attmy, Ever seen the movie The Shawshank Redemption where the main character Andy Duphrane played by Tim Robbins writes a letter a week to the state Senate to fund his prison library project? His response after he got a box of old books and a $200 check should be on par with ours: "It only took 6 years. From now on I'll write two letters instead of one."

    Posted by: Craig | Oct 28, 2009 5:56:09 PM

  13. Finally! Some action...ok, one down, 3 more to go. Si se puede!!
    Thank you to all of those who kept at it, kept pushing, kept trying.
    Go Judy Shepard!
    Just think, in less than 3 more years, we might have pretty close to full equality. How freaking good is that gonna feel?
    What am I going to do with the chip on my shoulder then?

    Posted by: ruby | Oct 28, 2009 6:01:12 PM

  14. I'm sorry, I oppose these kinds of laws, not because I'm anti-gay (hoo boy, quite the opposite). If you kill someone or beat them up, your premeditation alone is enough -- we don't need to have separate categories of sentences for people who target one group over another. Beat up a straight guy, get 18 months probation. Beat up a gay guy, get 3 years? EQUALITY not separate status. Anyway, I guess we'll just have to agree to disagree. But I think we're unanimous that Obama needs to repeal DOMA and DADT -- absolutely.

    Posted by: Freddy | Oct 28, 2009 7:32:51 PM

  15. Well, if members of protected classes weren't targeted for violent crimes more often than non-members because of the trait defining the group, it'd be equal. But they are more likely to be victimized for either having that trait or being perceived to have it, and sentencing enhancements are meant to correct that INEQUALITY.

    Separately, there's nothing wrong with a society saying of a certain type of behavior that it is simply more offensive than other types, either. Racist and homophobic hate crimes are simply more offensive because of what they are than, say, a simple mugging motivated by need and opportunity rather than hate.

    I've found that discussing hate crimes with people who are against them is like arguing with religious people about the warrant of their faith based beliefs...reason, facts and logic have nothing at all to do with the "conversation". Kinda makes you wanna give up on things...or buy a gun!

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 7:52:58 PM

  16. Tank, quite frankly, that's what aggravating factors are for. There is already a means in the crimes code of every state and the feds which allows a sentence to be aggravated (increased) depending on the facts of the case. THAT'S the way hate crimes ought to be handled, not as an entirely separate crime as has just been passed. This is special treatment, plain and simple. The ability to increase a sentence already exists, but that's not good enough for the thought police, apparently.

    It saddens me that a "regular" assault gets one sentence, while beating up a gay guy now doubles or triples the sentence. I'm sorry, but the time to be victims is OVER.

    Posted by: DR | Oct 28, 2009 8:00:10 PM

  17. Freddy (and DR), you might appreciate hate crimes legislation more if you actually understood how it works.

    This, from Freddy:

    "Beat up a straight guy, get 18 months probation. Beat up a gay guy, get 3 years?"

    is DEAD WRONG.

    The new hate crimes law provides added penalties for violent crimes when the victim is selected because of his or her real or perceived sexual orientation. So...

    If a straight guy gets beaten up because he's straight, extra punishment can be levied.
    And if a a gay guy gets beaten up because he's gay, extra punishment can be levied.

    NO DIFFERENCE. This law protects everyone.

    Posted by: 24play | Oct 28, 2009 8:08:11 PM

  18. "It saddens me that a 'regular' assault gets one sentence, while beating up a gay guy now doubles or triples the sentence. I'm sorry, but the time to be victims is OVER."

    Torturing someone by leaving them to die on a fence or dragging them behind a truck because of who they are is not a "regular" assault. Terrorizing an entire community by specially and violently targeting people solely because of who they are is not a "regular" assault. Hate crimes are designated as such because they are different and have historically been excessively, cruelly violent as well as under prosecuted.

    The fact is that straight guys don't have to worry about being killed for holding their girlfriend's hand in public--if it were a level playing field, hate crimes legislation wouldn't be necessary, but is isn't a level playing field. This legislation supports the idea that the time to be victims is over by recognizing that our society will not stand for violent acts motivated by hatred and bias. Enough is enough.

    While this is hardly the end of the struggle for full equality and the President has several promises to go, it is undeniably significant and a testament to the perseverance of families like the Shepards and the Byrds who stood up against hatred rather than cowering in their grief.

    Posted by: Ernie | Oct 28, 2009 8:38:49 PM

  19. Tank, quite frankly, that's what aggravating factors are for. There is already a means in the crimes code of every state and the feds which allows a sentence to be aggravated (increased) depending on the facts of the case.

    Quite frankly, you're talking out of your ass. There simply isn't the means in the criminal code to distinguish between a hate crime and an aggravated assault--nor the will and financing in most states (as has been the record in hate crimes in which states don't recognize them nor pursue them as anything other than non aggravated assaults--if that) to follow up. Some measure of accountability will be introduced.

    But more importantly, none of what you've written addresses any of the arguments for or against hate crimes. But you prove my point...that reason, logic... and facts have no place in "conversations" about hate crimes. People are just too stupid, and given the positive relationship between stupidity and certainty, why bother?

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 8:56:27 PM

  20. Obama showed up with a pen.

    Thank you Congress!

    Posted by: NYSmike | Oct 28, 2009 9:05:32 PM

  21. I was wondering how long it would take for the whiny gays to rain on this parade. (You know, the ones who wanted Hillary.) It didn't take long! ROSCOE was right there (along with plenty of company), all prepared to whine about what Obama has not done yet.

    Let me remind you that President McCain would never have signed this bill. I know this because Senator McCain voted against it.

    Obama is lining up support for the other things that can't be scuttled easily. Look how difficult healthcare is, and that's got nothing to do with gays. ENDA will happen this year, DADT next year, and DOMA repeal next year or shortly after that. It's a LOT of stuff to get done, and it has to be done without giving Republicans ammo to use against us, and against the other things Obama is trying to do.

    So try to be happy for just one day about what HAS been done instead of being whiny and miserable all the time about what has not yet been done.

    Posted by: Haven B | Oct 28, 2009 9:27:26 PM

  22. "Obama showed up with a pen."

    Is this even a valid criticism? That's one way a bill becomes a law, with the president's signature. Review that "Schoolhouse Rock" episode for more information about it. Sounds like damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.

    Did you want him to bust out the veto pen?

    Posted by: Jane Doe | Oct 28, 2009 9:38:02 PM

  23. Obama needs to worry about the economy, not protecting a group of dicksucking, shit packing faggots. We all know faggots will probably die with AIDS anyway. Look at Rock Hudson and Freddie Mercury, both faggots who died with AIDS. You stupid fucking dumbass queers. Bunch of ass pirates!

    Posted by: Clay | Oct 28, 2009 9:49:21 PM

  24. He actually asked Judy Shepard if she'd seen his veto pen before the signing. Then he made it appear from behind her ear like magic coins while standing near the bill--and had it disappear up his nose, substituting it for the signing pen. It was a really mean spirited thing to do, but almost everyone laughed...

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 9:56:59 PM

  25. NO, thank you ralphy/clay--people like you justify the legislation.

    Posted by: TANK | Oct 28, 2009 10:01:17 PM

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