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Obama’s remarks after signing the Matthew Shepard hate crimes act

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Obama on signing hate crimes lawAt a separate ceremony late today President Obama gave additional remarks about the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act which he signed into law earlier today as a part of the 2010 Defense Authorization bill.

The Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill is now law

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Matthew ShepardPresident Obama today signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act which was apart of the 2010 Defense Authorization bill. The new legislation adds sexual orientation, gender, disability, or gender identity to existing hate crimes laws.

Joe Solomnese of HRC and Judy Shepard respond to the signing

“This law honors our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender brothers and sisters whose lives were cut short because of hate,” said Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese.  “Today’s signing of the first major piece of civil rights legislation to protect LGBT Americans represents a historic milestone in the inevitable march towards equality.  Although this is a major step in fighting the scourge of hate violence, it is not the end of the road.  As a community, we will continue to dedicate ourselves to changing not only laws but also hearts and minds.  We know that hate crimes not only harm individuals, but they terrorize entire communities.  After more than a decade of advocacy, local police and sheriffs’ departments now have the full resources of the Justice Department available to them.”

“We applaud President Obama for signing this bill into law and thank the leadership and our allies in the House and Senate.   We also will always remember the tireless efforts of Senator Edward Kennedy on this issue.  Senator Kennedy once said that this legislation sends ‘a message about freedom and equality that will resonate around the world.’   This marks the first time that we as a nation have explicitly protected the LGBT community in the law.  And this law sends a loud message that perpetrators of hate violence against anyone will be brought to justice,” said Solmonese.

“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,” said Judy Shepard, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.  “But each of us can and must do much more to ensure true equality for all Americans.”

A more formal ceremony is planned for later today.

Senate passes hate crimes bill 68-29! Next stop, President Obama’s desk.

activism, lgbt, politics, religion, video 3 Comments »

Hate Crimes passes SenateIn a historic vote today the Senate passed the The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act by an easy margin 68-29, and joins the House of Representatives in sending the historic legislation to President Obama’s desk.

The measure, attached to an essential military-spending bill, broadens the definition of federal hate crimes to include those committed because of a victim’s gender or gender identity, sexual orientation or disability. It gives them the same federal safeguards already afforded to people who are victims of violent crimes because of their race, color, religion or national origin.

Supporters of the legislation argued that it would deter those tempted to attack people out of bigotry, and that extra protections for those victimized because of their sexuality were needed because such crimes have been on the rise.

Opponents argued to no avail that the new measure was unnecessary in view of existing laws and might interfere with local law enforcement agencies. Senator Jim DeMint, Republican of South Carolina, said he agreed that hate crimes were terrible. “That’s why they are already illegal,” he said, asserting that the new law was a dangerous, even “Orwellian” step toward “thought crime.”

Judy Shepard, mother of Matthew Shepard for whom the bill is named responded to the news…

“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.”

Senator Fiengold was the only Democrat who voted against the bill, most likely because he disagreed with some aspect of the military spending and not because of hate crimes. The Nays in the roll call are the usual suspects and appear below:

Alexander (R-TN)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Bennett (R-UT)
Brownback (R-KS)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Corker (R-TN)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Enzi (R-WY)
Feingold (D-WI)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Johanns (R-NE)
Kyl (R-AZ)
LeMieux (R-FL)
McConnell (R-KY)
Risch (R-ID)
Roberts (R-KS)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Wicker (R-MS)

WWII veteran speaks out for marriage equality in Maine

activism, lgbt, politics, video 2 Comments »

WWII Veteran Philip SpoonerThis could hardly be a better time for this to be making the rounds again on the eve of the marriage equality vote in Maine. During hearings on gay marriage last April, Philip Spooner, an 86-year-old D-Day veteran gave the following testimony:

“The woman at my polling place asked me do I believe in equality for gay and lesbian people. I was pretty surprised to be asked a question like that. It made no sense to me. Finally I asked her: what do you think I fought for in Omaha Beach?”

Watch the entire clip below…