On Oct. 28, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd legislation expanded the legal definition of “hate crime” to include attacks based on sexual orientation. The bill passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama, but Rep. Brian Bilbray (R-Calif.) failed to take a leadership role and voted “NO” on this historic civil rights legislation.
A hate crime occurs when the perpetrator selects the victim because of the person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
As a society we cannot tolerate hate crimes which intimidate and put a whole class of people in fear. Now the Justice Department can aid state and local authorities investigating reported hate crimes when local authorities choose not to pursue a civil rights investigation.