There are two names on the federal hate crimes law. One is Matthew Shepard. The other is James Byrd

James Byrd Jr. was a 49-year-old black man and father of three; on the morning of June 7, 1998, Byrd was picked up by two white men. Byrd’s brutal murder was racially motivated and went on to push lawmakers to enact a federal hate crimes law: The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009.

The Act provides funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them to more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes. It also criminalizes willfully causing bodily injury (or attempting to do so with fire, firearm, or other dangerous weapon) when: (1) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin of any person or (2) the crime was committed because of the actual or perceived religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability of any person and the crime affected interstate or foreign commerce or occurred within federal special maritime and territorial jurisdiction.


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