By Kerry Eleveld
Originally published on Advocate.com October 28 2009 1:25 PM ET
President Barack Obama Wednesday signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act as part of the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act.
“After more than a decade of opposition and delay, we’ve passed inclusive hate-crimes legislation that protects people based on what they look like, who they love, how they pray, or who they are,” Obama said, addressing the crowd. “I promised Judy Shepard when she saw me in the Oval Office that this day would come.”
Obama went on to thank Sen. Edward Kennedy for his dedication to seeing that the bill was passed. Before leaving, he kissed Judy Shepard on the cheek and shook hands with her husband, Dennis, and son, Logan.
Because the hate-crimes measure was attached a defense bill, the signing was an unusual mix of defense officials and advocates for the hate-crimes legislation.
Alongside Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Adm. Mike Mullen, and the chairmen of the respective Armed Services Committees, Sen. Carl Levin and Rep. Ike Skelton, stood LGBT elected officials and the family members of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. (his sisters Betty Byrd Boatner and Louvon Harris), for whom the hate-crimes measure is named.
President Obama will host a reception in the East Room of the White House beginning about 5 p.m. to commemorate the enactment of the hate-crimes law. Guests will include Atty. Gen. Eric Holder and a broad spectrum of civil rights leaders, including LGBT advocates.
The president is expected to make brief remarks about 6:05 p.m.