Obama expands hate crimes legislation

On Oct. 28, President Barack Obama signed and celebrated hate crime legislation that extends protection to people based on sexual orientation, sealing a long-fought victory to gay advocates. The president spoke of a nation becoming a place where “we’re all free to live and love as we see fit.”

The new law expands federal hate crimes to include those committed against people because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. It also loosens limits on when federal law enforcement can intervene and prosecute crimes, amounting to the biggest expansion of the civil-rights era law in decades.

The bill is named for Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, whose family members stood with Obama. Shepard, a gay college student, was murdered and found tied to a fence in Wyoming in 1998. The same year, Byrd, a black man, was chained to a pickup by three white men and dragged to his death in Texas. ♦

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