A poll conducted this month has found that nearly 70% of Americans are in favour of new legislation to extend hate crimes to cover LGBT people.

Support for the new protections extends across religious and political groups.

60% of Republicans and 64% of regular church goers supported the proposed new law.

The new law will extend protections on the grounds of race or religion to cover LGBT people.

The Local Law Hate Crimes Prevention Act passed the House of Representatives earlier this month.

Its counterpart, the Matthew Shepard Act, is now before the Senate.

It was named in memory of the gay college student killed in a hate crime in Wyoming in 1998 and will afford the Justice Department with greater powers to investigate crimes motivated by sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Democrat seizure of power in Washington in January means that the hate crime legislation now has a better chance of passing than when it was first proposed by President Clinton to a hostile Republican Congress in 1999.

However, the White House has indicated that President Bush will use his veto to block the legislation if passes the Senate.

“This new national poll continues to reiterate how incredibly out of touch right-wing organisations are with the will of the American people and underscores the need for the Senate to pass the bill,” said Human Rights Campaign president Joe Solmonese.

“I hope President Bush will look at this poll and realise how unbelievably out of line a threatened veto of this critical crime-fighting piece of legislation is with a majority of Americans.”

The poll was conducted by Gallup last weekend. 69% of independents and 75% of Democrats said they supported the hate-crimes bill.