US House approves Matthew Shepard hate crimes bill
The US House has agreed to approve a bill that would include LGBT people in federal hate crime laws.
Called the Matthew Shepard Bill after the murdered gay teenager, it expands federal hate crime laws to include crimes where the victims were targeted on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender, and disability.
It also means the federal government could step in to prosecute in states that request it or in those who choose not to prosecute.
The bill is to be attached to the Department of Defence reauthorisation bill, an unpopular bill calling for funding into the billions to be provided for new F-22 fighter jets.
The House approved attaching the hate crimes bill to the defence measures 281-146.
While some Republicans support the defence move, they are angry that this would mean having to pass the hate crimes bill at the same time.
Meanwhile, president Barack Obama and defence secretary Robin Gates have opposed the bill, with a spokesman for Obama saying in July he supported the hate crimes measure but could not support “wasteful spending for additional F-22.”
Shepard was tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming, for being gay, and whose murder in 1998 became a focal point for a call for hate crime legislation to be passed.
His mother Judy has since become a gay rights activist and is to speak at this weekend’s equality march on Washington.