Yesterday, US President Barack Obama signed new legislation which extends federal hate crime law to cover crimes motivated by actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation or gender identity.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act – named in recognition of two victims murdered on the basis of their sexual orientation – was first introduced to Congress in 2001. It was finally approved by 68 votes to 29 by the US Senate as an amendment to the 2010 Defense Authorization Act on 22 October 2009.
The Act makes three key provisions:
Section 4707 amends United States Code Title 18, section 249, to include actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity in the list of hate crimes punishable under federal law.
Section 4704 (a) provides for the Attorney General – at the request of a state or local law enforcement agency – to provide ‘technical, forensic, prosecutorial or any other form of assistance’ in the investigation or prosecution of a hate crime. Section 4704 (b) provides for the Attorney General to make grants for extraordinary expenses associated with the investigation or prosecution of a hate crime.
Section 4706 provides for the appropriation of additional personnel to assist state authorities or local law enforcement agencies to prevent and respond to violations of section 249.
To read the full text of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr Hate Crimes Prevention Act, click here.