October 28th, 2009
02:55 PM ET
4 years ago

Obama signs bill expanding hate crimes law

Defense Secretary Gates and several members of Congress looked on Wednesday as President Obama signed a bill that includes an expanded hate crimes law.
Defense Secretary Gates and several members of Congress looked on Wednesday as President Obama signed a bill that includes an expanded hate crimes law.

WASHINGTON (CNN) - President Barack Obama on Wednesday signed a law that makes it a federal crime to assault an individual because of his or her sexual orientation or gender identity.

The expanded federal hate crimes law was added to a $680 billion defense authorization bill that Obama signed at a packed White House ceremony.

The hate crimes measure was named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas the same year.

Shepard's mother, Judy, was among those at the ceremony that also included Vice President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Attorney General Eric Holder and leading members of Congress and the Pentagon, who were on hand for the appropriations bill signing.

To loud applause, Obama hailed the hate crimes measure in the bill as a step toward change to "help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray."

He cited the work of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts and others "to make this day possible."

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Filed under: President Obama
soundoff (43 Responses)
  1. Mike Syracuse, NY

    Doesn't the Constitution say something about 'equal protection under the law'? Why is the murder of someone who is gay more of a crime than the murder of someone else? Both are just as dead from violence.

    October 28, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  2. Republicans are the American Taliban

    When will the Hate Crimes Law pertain to Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly and Beck?

    October 28, 2009 03:56 pm at 3:56 pm |
  3. Nik

    does anybody besides me find it interesting that the two namesakes related to this hate-crimes bill were from Wyoming and Texas?

    October 28, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  4. Johanna

    This bill in no way gives special protections... if a bunch of gay men beat up a straight man because he was straight, the straight man would be covered under this legislation because he was a target of violence on the basis of his sexual orientation. Meanwhile, if a gay man is beat up because of his money or his car or whatever, he would be equally as uncovered by this legislation as you are now. It does not say only gay people are covered, it says ALL PEOPLE are protected from being targets of violence on the basis of bigotry.

    October 28, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  5. Joe in Vega$

    It really is telling that those who are complaining about hate crime bills are those who commit hate crimes– those who vote Republican.

    October 28, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  6. Just My Opinion in Texas

    OK ... if a person is killed because of their race or sexual orientation and their killer is sentenced to death or life without parole ... just HOW will ANY hate crime law make ANY sort of practical difference???

    Or is it just another example of "feel-good" legislation without any REAL practical application??

    October 28, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  7. Marc

    Murder is Murder some will say... Wrong.
    There's murder in the 1st degree, murder in the 2nd degree, manslaughter and justifiable use of deadly force, for starters. EVERY CRIME has degrees of offensiveness, and now there's one more to add to the math.
    A long way overdue one BTW.

    October 28, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  8. Stacie

    Yay! Now on to Don't Ask Don't Tell.

    October 28, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  9. Pete

    Wow, are conservatives ever touchy people about this. Guys, try to calm down and actually READ the bill, as well as existing hate crime statutes.

    If your primary motive for attacking a person is based on their race, gender, ethnicity, religion, and orientation, that would violate the law. Yep, that means if someone attacks a straight, white, male Christian BECAUSE of their race, gender, orientation, or religion, then said attacker would violate the law. There's no special groups or special coverage.

    I realize that to some people, hatred of those who are different is their most cherished activity. Guess you'll have to go somewhere else to hate.

    October 28, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  10. Doug, New Jersey

    Democrats believe it is a hate crime to peacefully protest a socialist administration, and that any free speech that is not a complete endorsement of extremist liberalism, is known as a hate crime.

    However, the message that needs to be sent to the youth of Democrat hot beds like Chicago, which was clearly seen on video with the group beating of that honor student in Obama's chicago, is what is known as pacifism and tolerance.

    October 28, 2009 04:14 pm at 4:14 pm |
  11. Susan

    What a great day for the citizens of this country! It should never have taken this long to enact the new "Hate Crime Law".

    October 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  12. SD Kevin

    Hate crimes are acts of terrorism plain and simple. Even though the direct victim suffers the intent is to tell people "like them" to stay in their place. It's sad that we need such legislation to act as a deterent against such abominal behavior, but I'm glad this Congress and this President had the courage to pass it.

    October 28, 2009 04:15 pm at 4:15 pm |
  13. Tina

    May God judges those that opposed His commands. I hope Obama had read book of Judges and Proverbs - for God warns people who disobey's his commands. As a Christian person myself, I don't condemn nor hate the gay people. What I condems are the acts between same sex, which God clearly detested. I see people supporting same sex marriage or unions as victims. It is known and been foretold that this world will be in deep sin before the final judgement. I hope everyone will seek God.

    October 28, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  14. B

    IT IS ABOUT TIME !
    We call ourselves a civilized society – with freedom for all-–

    October 28, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  15. MTS

    As a centrist Dem I say this is moronic. You either commit a crime, or you don't. Three white kids beat up a Latino kid, hate crime. Three Latino kids beat up a white kid, no big deal.

    And yes, this actually happens.

    October 28, 2009 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
  16. Jim

    Good now we are all equal, well unless we aren't gay. Then we are more important. How can the gay community claim they are being discriminated against with gay marriage bans yet want a special status when it comes to assaults? So a gay man gets punched it's a hate crime, I gay guy punches a straight man its assault? So one person gets more rights than the other??? Sounds fair.

    October 28, 2009 04:22 pm at 4:22 pm |
  17. Centrist

    Thank you, Mr. President and Congress.

    The bill is long overdue to include protections for all Americans with regards to religion, race, gender, orientation, national origin, or disability.

    God bless the USA!

    October 28, 2009 04:25 pm at 4:25 pm |
  18. Dominican mama 4 Obama

    Thank you, thank you Mr. President.

    October 28, 2009 04:27 pm at 4:27 pm |
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