Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Americans With Disabilities To Gain New Protections Under Hate Crimes Bill

By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express

WASHINGTON, DC--Legislation that would expand hate crimes protections to include people with disabilities is headed to the White House for President Obama's signature.

Current federal law increases penalties for perpetrators who commit crimes against people because of race, color, religion or national identity.

The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act would add protections against crimes based on a person's disability, gender, gender identity, and sexual orientation.

On October 8, 2009, the House of Representatives voted 281 to 146 to pass its version of the hate crimes legislation. Last Thursday, the Senate passed its own version on a vote of 68 to 29.

Both the House and Senate versions were attached a major defense spending bill.

President Obama is expected to support the measure, which is named in part for James Byrd, Jr, a man with intellectual disabilities that was murdered in rural Texas.

In June 1998, three men beat the 49-year-old African-American man. Then they stripped him naked, chained his ankles to a pick-up truck, and dragged him for three miles down a secluded gravel road.

An autopsy later indicated that Byrd died after his head hit a culvert along the side of the road.

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