Update on the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act

After 10 years of continued effort, a federal act to prevent and prosecute hate crimes committed against persons due to their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity is closer than ever to becoming law, with a key Senate roll-call about to take place.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which passed the U.S. House earlier this year by a sizeable margin, has been offered as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 (S. 1391). Officially known as the Leahy/Collins/Kennedy/Snowe Amendment, it will be debated intermittently ahead of a crucial procedural vote as soon as Thursday afternoon, or as late as Monday, July 20.

The cloture motion (to end debate and force a vote on the amendment) will require 60 votes to pass. Support for the Matthew Shepard Act appears to be close to that threshold, though opponents of this common-sense legislation are reportedly deluging the Senate with calls and correspondence urging its defeat.

Yesterday, Matthew Shepard Foundation Governing Board President Judy Shepard joined Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid at a Capitol press conference to urge passage of the legislation. Sen. Reid reiterated his commitment to get the Matthew Shepard Act into law this year. The Defense Department spending bill, with or without the Shepard Act attached, will need to go to a conference committee of the House and Senate that will be charged with producing a final version in September. House and Senate leaders and the White House have again restated their commitments to get this done—this year.

But lawmakers need to hear where you stand. Visit http://www.senate.gov/ and make your voice heard today!

Jason Marsden

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