A Decade Later, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act Passes Congress

By Jorge Rivas Oct 29, 2009

Matthew Shepard was murdered for being gay. Shepard’s killers set out at first to rob him. But, after learning he was gay, they kidnapped and tortured him and left him for dead in a ranch in Laramie, WY. James Byrd, Jr. was murdered for being black. His killers, three white supremacist, chained him to a pickup truck and dragged him to his death in east Texas. These two deaths were disturbingly brutal but in 1998 when President Bill Clinton tried to get Congress to add sexual orientation to the current federal hate crime law he didn’t get the support he needed. While I celebrate finally adding sexual orientation to the federal hate crime bill, it’s with a little disappointment because if it wasn’t because this act was attached to a defense bill, it may not have passed. Democrats attached an amendment to the hate crimes legislation and attached it to a $680 billion defense bill they knew had to pass. Do you think the Matthew Shepard Hate Crime Prevention Act would have passed without it being attached to a defense bill?