The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Act, attached to a large military policy bill, passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday by a vote of 281 to 146 – with support from Republican Rep. Erik Paulsen and opposition from Democratic Rep. Collin Peterson. Next Monday is the 11th anniversary of the murder of 21-year-old college student, Matthew Shepard, who was attacked in Laramie, Wyo., because he was gay.
The bill would add sexual orientation and gender identity to the federal government’s hate crimes statutes, while also providing grants to local law enforcement agencies to investigate and prosecute suspected hate crimes.
Minnesota’s DFL members of Congress voted for the bill with the exception of Peterson, a longtime opponent of LGBT-supportive legislation. The state’s Republican members of Congress voted against the bill except for Paulsen, who represents the moderate district encompassing western Hennepin County.
Earlier this month, a number of Paulsen’s constituents met at his district office to convince him to support the bill, work that seems to have paid off, as Paulsen voted against a similar bill earlier this year.
A nearly identical bill has already passed the Senate with the backing of Sens. Al Franken and Amy Klobuchar, but the Senate must approve the new bill passed by the House. That could happen as early as next week.