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The Canadian senate passed a bill Wednesday to extend hate-crimes protections to gays, but MP Svend Robinson wasn't there to enjoy his victory. The openly gay New Democrat was in self-imposed exile from the political limelight. Not that Robinson, disgraced after admitting he stole an expensive ring on April 9, was far away. He was seen exchanging hugs and high-fives with jubilant supporters on a street within sight of Parliament Hill. Robinson was in Ottawa for only a day to complete related paperwork and retrieve some personal items, according to Ian Capstick, a spokesman for the New Democrat Party caucus. The timing coincided with the vote by coincidence, he said. Senators voted 59-11 to pass the bill as applause echoed through the ornate red chamber. It now requires the final formality of royal assent to become law. The bill cleared the House of Commons last September after raucous debate. At the time, the former Canadian Alliance--now part of the new Conservative Party--and some Liberals fought the bill over fears that freedom of speech and religion would suffer. Opponents raised concerns that the bill could be used even against religious leaders who condemn homosexuality from the pulpit. They also attacked the logic of singling out certain groups for specific protection, arguing that violence against all people should be prosecuted equally and is already outlawed.