The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The bill also:
- Removes the prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity, like voting or going to school;
- Gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue;
- Provides $5 million per year in funding for fiscal years 2010 through 2012 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes;
- Requires the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to track statistics on hate crimes based on gender and gender identity (statistics for the other groups were already tracked).
The Act is the first federal law to extend legal protections to transgender people.
FBI Contact Information: http://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/
In the latest development following the Supreme Court’s decision earlier this month to decline to hear any pending cases regarding same-sex marriage, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Saturday that the federal government will now recognize same-sex married couples in six new states: Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Last week, the Attorney General made a similar announcement with respect to seven other states: Colorado, Indiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin. Saturday’s announcement adds to that list and brings the total number of states where same-sex couples are recognized by the federal government to 32, plus the District of Columbia.
The Attorney General’s announcement means couples married in these states will now qualify for a range of federal benefits, including those administered by the Social Security Administration and Department of Veterans Affairs.
“With each new state where same-sex marriages are legally recognized, our nation moves closer to achieving of full equality for all Americans,” the Attorney General said. “We are acting as quickly as possible with agencies throughout the government to ensure that same-sex married couples in these states receive the fullest array of benefits allowable under federal law.”
In addition, the Attorney General also announced that the Department of Justice has determined it can legally recognize marriages performed in Indiana and Wisconsin this past June. These marriages were performed immediately after federal district courts ruled that those states’ bans on same-sex marriage are unconstitutional, but subsequent developments created confusion about the status of those marriages. Based on the Attorney General’s announcement, however, those couples married during that period will now have their unions recognized by the federal government.
US LGBT Rights Timeline 1903-2014 (ProPresObama.org Civil Rights Timelines ™)