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50 years in 50 weeks: 2009 Obama signs hate crime law

by BAR staff

Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive
Photo: Courtesy B.A.R. Archive  

The Bay Area Reporter's October 29, 2009 issue saved some space on page 1 for the news that then-President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. hate crimes bill into law. The federal law added sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of categories of bias-motivated crimes that can be investigated and prosecuted by the Justice Department. Shepard was a gay college student in Wyoming who was beaten to death. Byrd, a Black man, was dragged by a vehicle to his death in Texas. The bill was the first major LGBTQ rights legislation signed into law by a president, as the B.A.R. reported at the time. In 2017, the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which was started by Judy and Dennis Shepard, issued a report detailing cases that had been prosecuted under the law up until that time.

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