By Kathleen Gilbert

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 30, 2009 ( – The U.S. House of Representatives yesterday voted 249-175 to expand federal “hate crimes” law to include protection based on a person’s sexual orientation or “gender identity.”

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Act of 2009 would grant the federal government authority to investigate crimes that appear to be motivated by a person’s sexual orientation.  The bill also extends current hate-crimes protection to victims not engaged in a federally-protected activity, such as voting or going to school.

President Obama yesterday strongly supported the measure, urging lawmakers to pass the measure he called “an important civil rights issue.” 

Legislators rejected a proposal that would have protected ministers, who speak of the Christian perspective of homosexuality, from being prosecuted for abetting a perceived “hate crime.”  Critics of the bill say that it threatens to chill free speech, arguing that similar legislation has done so in Canada, Sweden, and the U.K.

See related coverage:

Obama Urges House of Representatives to Pass Sexual Orientation “Hate Crimes” Bill

Free Speech Concerns Ignored as “Hate Crimes” Bill Passes Fed. Judiciary Committee


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