[JURIST] The US Senate [official website] approved an amendment to the 2008 Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials] by unanimous voice vote Thursday that would expand federal hate crimes legislation. Among its provisions, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 [S 1105 materials] broadens the definition of a hate crime to include violent attacks against people based on their gender or sexuality and makes it easier for federal law enforcement to become involved in hate crimes cases. The bill is named for Matthew Shepard [foundation website], a gay college student who was killed because of his sexual orientation. Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and Gordon Smith (R-OR) [official websites] co-sponsored the measure and applauded the amendment's passage [press release] Thursday. The US House of Representatives passed [JURIST report] its version of the bill [PDF text; HR 1592 summary] in May.
The White House has repeatedly threatened to veto [policy statement, PDF] the hate crimes legislation, leading many Senate Republicans to argue that Senate Democrats attached the hate crimes amendment to the bill authorizing Department of Defense (DOD) [official website] funding to force US President George W. Bush's approval. Senate Democrats countered by arguing that the hate crimes amendment legitimately deals with domestic terrorism, while the Defense Reauthorization Bill relates to international terrorism. AP has more.