President Barack Obama signed the first major piece of federal LGBT rights legislation: Extending hate crimes protections to people based on sexual orientation or gender identity. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act was part of the 2010 Department of Defense Authorization. At today's signing, the President made some remarks on the Defense authorization and recognized the Shepard and Byrd families––as well as the late Sen. Ted Kennedy––before signing the bill into law.
Said the President: "There is one more long-awaited change contained within this legislation that I'll be talking about a little more later today. After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we've passed inclusive hate crimes legislation to help protect our citizens from violence based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are. I promised Judy Shepard, when she saw me in the Oval Office, that this day would come, and I'm glad that she and her husband Dennis could join us for this event. I'm also honored to have the family of the late Senator Ted Kennedy, who fought so hard for this legislation. And Vicki and Patrick, Kara, everybody who's here, I just want you all to know how proud we are of the work that Ted did to help this day––make this day possible. So––and thank you for joining us here today. (Applause.) So, with that, I'm going to sign this piece of legislation."
Watch the President sign the law AFTER THE JUMP.
The passage of the legislation comes after languishing for more than a decade on Capitol Hill. The law is named after a pair of notorious 1998 hate crimes––one against a older black man in Texas, the other against a young gay man in Wyoming––that shocked our nation's collective consciousness. (More on why Byrd's name is on the law at the Dallas Voice.) The law was originally proposed by civil rights champions Rep. John Conyers and the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and is the first-ever federal LGBT rights legislation.
Hate crime attacks disproportionately target black gay men and black transgender women, who often live in states without hate crime protections. Until now. It's a great day to be an American. Watch the President sign the law AFTER THE JUMP.