Matthew Shepard Act

Matthew Shepard Act  :

After years of unreasonable delay, Parliament passed legislation that for the first time, extend federal hate crimes law to give substantive coverage to gay people. The law will be an important step in protecting all minorities from violence and a tribute to a young man whose life was punctuated by bigotry.

In 1998, Matthew Shepard, a 21-year University of Wyoming student who was raised by his attackers because he was gay, tied to a fence, tortured and left to die in a coma.

His death galvanized a national movement to extend the protection of hate crimes to gays and lesbians, but also brought strong opposition. Two years ago, a draft law on hate crimes that includes gays blocked after President George W. Bush threatened to veto.

The Matthew Shepard Act, when the bill is known in the Senate, would provide greater support to national and local authorities to pursue a wide range of hate crimes - ones motivated by race, religion, national origin , sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It would also give the federal government to prosecute these crimes when states fail to do so.

The main beneficiaries are likely to be African-Americans constitute the largest group of victims of hate crimes. It would also help Hispanics who have been targets of increasing anti-immigrant hatred. Opponents of the bill focused on the protection of homosexuals who were victims in more than 16 percent of reported hate crimes by the FBI in 2007.
Matthew Shepard Act
In addition to more resources, the law will be an important public education role in highlighting the seriousness and horror of these crimes. Particularly bad time last week's House debate, Representative Virginia Foxx, Republican of North Carolina, said that Mr. Shepard's death was a "hoax," repeating a right canard that was not a target because he was gay.

Luckily, Ms. Foxx is part of a reduction - if still too vocal - minority. A survey published in February 2007, Hart found that 73 percent of these heinous crimes with the legislation protecting homosexuals interviewed.
After the voting strength of the building - 249 to 175 - in favor of the bill is necessary for the Senate to follow. Senator Edward Kennedy, Massachusetts Democrat, introduced a companion bill has bipartisan support. Harry Reid, majority leader, should quickly schedule a vote.


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