Three years ago today, President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. The law makes it a federal crime to assault an individual based on sexual orientation, gender, or gender identity, and has been called the country’s first major piece of federal gay rights legislation. The law was named for Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming teenager who died after being kidnapped and severely beaten in October 1998, and James Byrd Jr., an African-American man dragged to death in Texas that same year.
Shortly after he took office, President Obama met with Jane Shepard, Matthew’s mother, and promised her that he would work to ensure every American was protected from hate crimes. The President then made sure that the law was passed by Congress. Despite the bipartisan support it received, Paul Ryan was among those who voted against it.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act is one example of how President Obama has stood up for LGBT Americans. Now he’s counting on us to stand up for him—commit to vote to make sure we keep moving forward with President Obama.