Late last night the Senate passed Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act (S. 909) as an amendment to a defense appropriations bill. If signed into law, the measure would provide additional resources to investigate and prosecute hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity, which constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007. The passage of the act marks the largest federal expansion of hate crimes protection in nearly 40 years.
The underlying bill, however, faces a potential veto by the President. It includes funding for the F-22 fighter, a program both President Obama and the Pentagon strongly oppose. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he is confident a revised bill including the Hate Crimes Act will reach Obama’s desk.