Here's a quick news flash: The Senate just passed the Matthew Shepard Act, which would expand current federal hate crime laws to include hate crimes against individuals "based on sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability," according to MatthewShepard.org's press release. (Current federal laws are limited to hate crimes "motivated by bias based on race, color, religion or national origin" in which "the assailant intends to prevent the victim from exercising a 'federally protected right' such as the right to vote or attend school.") As most people probably know, the bill's named after 21-year-old Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in a homophobic hate crime in Wyoming in 1998.
The House passed a nearly identical bill on May 3, and the measure now awaits President Bush's approval. Unsurprisingly, Shepard's parents are thrilled. "The Matthew Shepard Act is an essential step to erasing hate in America and we are humbled that it bears our son's name," they're quoted as saying. "It has been almost nine years since Matthew was taken from us. This bill is a fitting tribute to his memory and to all of those who have lost their lives to hate."