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article imagePresident Obama signs expanded hate crimes bill into law

By Kay Mathews     Oct 29, 2009 in Politics
On Oct. 28, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became law. Obama hosted a reception following the bill signing. In his remarks, Obama said hate crimes are meant to "break spirits," not only bones.
The reception was held in the East Room of the White House.
Obama's remarks to the assembled activists, organizers, legislators, and families directly affected by hate crime violence said in part:
You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits -- not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear. You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights -- both from unjust laws and violent acts. And you understand how necessary this law continues to be.
...But we sense where such cruelty begins: the moment we fail to see in another our common humanity -- the very moment when we fail to recognize in a person the same fears and hopes, the same passions and imperfections, the same dreams that we all share.
Obama said data from the FBI indicates there were more than 12,000 reported hate crimes based on sexual orientation over the last 10 years.
The president's reference to sexual orientation is linked to what happened to Matthew Shepard.
"It's hard for any of us to imagine the mind-set of someone who would kidnap a young man and beat him to within an inch of his life, tie him to a fence, and leave him for dead," Obama said.
Concerning the attack on James Byrd, Jr., Obama said, "It's hard for any of us to imagine the twisted mentality of those who'd offer a neighbor a ride home, attack him, chain him to the back of a truck, and drag him for miles until he finally died."
As reported by, the U.S. Senate passed the bill on Oct. 22 following passage by the U.S. House on Oct. 8.
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