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House passes bill expanding hate crimes protection for gender and sexual orientation

[JURIST] The US House of Representatives [official website] on Wednesday approved a bill [HR 1913 materials] that would expand protection from hate crimes [JURIST news archive] by broadening the category of violations defined in the current law. The bill, which was approved by a vote of 249-175 [roll call vote], would expand the definition of hate crimes to include attacks based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of a victim. The current federal hate crime law only protects crimes committed based on race, religion, color, or national origin. The legislation also includes a provision which directs the US attorney general [official website] to give priority to providing assistance in cases where an offender has committed a hate crime in more than one state and cases in rural jurisdictions. While the bill did meet some opposition, it had support of President Barack Obama [official profile], who said in statement [text] prior to the vote, "I urge members on both sides of the aisle to act on this important civil rights issue by passing this legislation to protect all of our citizens from violent acts of intolerance – legislation that will enhance civil rights protections, while also protecting our freedom of speech and association."

In 2007, the House had approved [JURIST report] a similar bill [text, PDF; HR 1592 summary], and the US Senate [official website] also passed [JURIST report] similar legislation in the form of an amendment to the 2008 Senate Defense Reauthorization Bill [HR 1585 materials]. However, the broadened language was ultimately removed [JURIST report] during House and Senate negotiations.

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