With the stroke of a pen, President Obama made good on his promise to enact meaningful gay rights legislation by signing the 2009 Defense Bill into law, thereby bringing to life a provision making it a hate crime to commit a violent act based on a person’s sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
With representatives from LGBT organizations and blogs at the White House by special invitation, President Barack Obama said, “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.”
President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, left, flank former Oklahoma Sen. David Boren in the Cabinet Room of the White House in Washington Wednesday. Oct. 28, 2009 photo
Joe Solmonese of the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), the country's largest homosexual rights organization, described the hate crimes provision as the country's "first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people."
Attorney General Eric Holder, left, and Judy Shepard, center, gather for the signing of the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. 10-28-09 photo
President Obama signs the historical Hate Crimes Bill making it a severe offense to commit violence against LGBT and disabled people
“Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council, said in a written statement the bill ‘is part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality.’
Obama addresses his constituents about the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act. 10-28-09 photo
“The ERLC and others fear the measure, combined with existing law, could expose to prosecution Christians and others who proclaim the Bible's teaching that homosexual behavior is sinful. For example, if a person commits a violent act based on a victim's ‘sexual orientation’ after hearing biblical teaching on the sinfulness of homosexual behavior, the preacher or teacher could be open to a charge of inducing the person to commit the crime, some foes say.”
If only that were true! If it were, I’d say “So be it!” Maybe the new hate crimes bill will teach these bigots how to be real Christians who practice love rather than hate!
Photo of Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard who was violently tortured and murdered because he was gay, and Barack Obama after he invited her to the Oval Office to talk about impending legislation, which is now, at last, a law!
The Matthew Shepard Foundation issued the following statement yesterday:
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.
Watch this video as President Obama Signs the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill Into Law via CNN. 10-28-09:
Here’s a video of President Obama’s Remarks on Passage Of Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act Later in the Day via CNN. October 28, 2009:
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