Elizabeth Edwards slammed President Bush for not being tougher on crimes against gays and lesbians during a speech on Saturday for the Human Rights Campaign in San Francisco.

During her address to the gay rights group, the Associated Press reports that Edwards cited the story of 26-year-old Satendar Singh.

He died recently after being beaten to death at Sacramento’s Lake Natomas by men hurling explicit gay slurs. She said the killing demanded renewed condemnations of hate speech.

“I thought we learned some lessons from Laramie and Matthew Shepard,” Mrs Edwards said in an interview with the Sacramento Bee, referring to the fatal 1998 beating of a gay college student in Wyoming that triggered an uproar over anti-gay violence.

As she campaigns for her husband – presidential candidate John Edwards – in California, Elizabeth Edwards has staked out an independent position on gay rights by announcing her support for gay marriage.

She said that hate speech is also being fuelled by the continuing debate over gay marriage.

“I think we have undue fear about gay marriage,” Edwards said, reports the Bee.

“I’ve heard more than one speech about how gay marriage threatens heterosexual marriage. It’s complete nonsense, in my view.”

Mrs Edwards also announced that her husband would help repeal more than a thousand laws that discriminate against same-sex couples.

Anthony Cuesta

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