As expected, the Senate passed the defense authorization bill this afternoon on a bipartisan vote of 68-29. Hate crimes legislation has already passed both houses of Congress, but the entire bill had to be voted on again after differences in the two versions of the defense bill were worked out.
The House version of the consolidated bill passed October 6 - just in time for the National Equality March and Obama's speech to the Human Rights Campaign's national dinner. The bill goes to the President's desk for his signature next. President Obama is expected to sign the legislation soon.
This legislation is vitally important for states like Indiana which doesn't have a hate crimes law thanks to our state legislators lack of support for our community or an ineffective state-wide LGBT organization. The message of the National Equality March rings true for me today. Our lack of progress in our state has been salvaged by federal action. The only way we're going to gain our rights is via federal law.
Organizational statements after the jump as they come in.
Judy Shepard, president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board
"Dennis and I are extremely proud of the Senate for once again passing this historic measure of protection for victims of these brutal crimes. Knowing that the president will sign it, unlike his predecessor, has made all the hard work this year to pass it worthwhile. Hate crimes continue to affect far too many Americans who are simply trying to live their lives honestly, and they need to know that their government will protect them from violence, and provide appropriate justice for victims and their families."
National Gay & Lesbian Task Force Executive Director Rea Carey
"Today's vote marks a milestone for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Americans. The hate crimes bill now shifts to the president. With his signature, President Obama will usher in a new era -- one in which hate-motivated violence against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people will no longer be tolerated. Our country will finally take an unequivocal stand against the bigotry that too often leads to violence against LGBT people, simply for being who they are.
"Americans are hungry for this type of positive change. They do not want to see their LGBT friends, family, neighbors and co-workers subjected to violence simply for living their lives. Laws embody the values of our nation; when this critical legislation becomes law, our nation will -- once and for all -- send the unmistakable message that it rejects and condemns hate violence against its people.
"We thank all the federal lawmakers who have supported this effort, both today and over the years. We are on the cusp of a new, and better, chapter in America."
Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese
"We're in the home stretch. This critical piece of legislation is on its way to the President's desk for his signature. We look forward to President Obama signing it into law; our nation's first major piece of civil rights legislation for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. Too many in our community have been devastated by hate violence. We now can begin the important steps to erasing hate in our country."
Center for American Progress Vice President Winnie Stachelberg
"Today the United States Senate passed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, turning the page on a dark era for the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community. I clearly remember the day 11 years ago when I learned that Matthew Shepard had been found beaten and abandoned in rural Wyoming. The murder told gay and lesbian Americans across the country that we were not safe. And the federal government could not help to prosecute this crime. Lack of federal support forced the Laramie Sherriff's Office to furlough five deputies for the Shepard investigation.
"This story repeats itself all too regularly for transgender Americans. A transgender woman named Tyli'a Mack was recently stabbed to death in a likely hate crime this August, blocks away from the Capitol. But once again the federal government was not able to provide assistance.
"Today's vote changes that. It firmly places the federal government on the side of LGBT Americans and sends a clear message that homophobia and transphobia are unacceptable. The bill urges police to take into account the homophobia and transphobia that undergird too many crimes, while giving law enforcement agencies around the country the tools they have asked for to effectively fight these crimes. This assistance is especially critical at a time when police department budgets are already being cut.
"Just as importantly, this bill starts Congress and the White House down the path toward full equality for LGBT Americans. Further progress will require a broad and engaged coalition and plenty of hard work. But I am confident that we can continue to move forward with the support of President Obama and congressional leadership on repealing Don't Ask Don't Tell, protecting LGBT workers from discrimination, and recognizing all our relationships. I look forward to President Barack Obama signing this bill into law next week."
Chuck Wolfe, president and CEO of the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund
"Our community has long sought this tool to help protect vulnerable Americans from hate-fueled violent attacks. I'm proud that the openly gay and lesbian members of Congress were there to add their voices to the debate and to speak authentically about the experience of gay and transgender Americans. I congratulate Judy and Dennis Shepard, who have lobbied so long and so hard for this law, and I thank our colleagues at the Human Rights Campaign and all who contributed to this tremendous victory."
Jennifer Chrisler, Executive Director, Family Equality Council
"Safety at home, at work, and in our communities is a cornerstone of happy, healthy families. LGBT families live in 99% of counties nationwide. We are neighbors, friends, loved ones, family members, workers and community members. Many of us are also parents who want more than anything to keep our children safe and to raise them in a world that finds strength in difference and celebrates diversity. Bias-motivated violence against any individual hurts our entire community. The protections and resources moved forward by Congress will ensure greater safety not just for LGBT people as individuals, but as parents and caregivers."
Kevin Cathcart, Executive Director of Lambda Legal
"We anticipate that President Obama will sign the Hate Crimes Prevention Act which will become the first federal law that specifically protects the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Years after the tragic murders of Matthew Shepard, Brandon Teena , Sakia Gunn and others our government is finally standing up and saying: No more. This law will send a message that violence motivated by hate will not be tolerated in this country and is a welcome first step towards other critical protections for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community."