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House OKs Matthew Shepard Act to protect gays

October 8, 2009 |  4:13 pm

It’s a big week for LGBT issues in Washington this week.

As our colleague Richard Simon reports from Capitol Hill, the House today approved a long-debated bill that would strengthen the federal hate-crime law to cover violence against gays.  The measure, expected to come before the Senate within days, faced a veto threat from President George W. Bush, but enjoys the support of President Obama. Matthew Shepard

Today’s action drew some complaints from Republicans because the measure, the Matthew Shepard Act, was attached to a defense bill. Shepard was a gay college student whose killing in Wyoming 11 years ago galvanized the gay rights movement.

On Wednesday, the president announced that he planned to nominate David Huebner, general counsel of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, as ambassador to New Zealand and Samoa. The Associated Press reported that, if confirmed by the Senate, Huebner would become the third openly gay ambassador in U.S. history.

This weekend Obama is scheduled to address the Human Rights Campaign, widely regarded as the nation’s largest lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender civil rights organization. This will be second time a sitting president has addressed the group. President Clinton spoke to the organization in 1997.

Obama’s Saturday address will come the night before the National March for Equality, the climax of a three-day conference designed to further gay rights. Thousands of gay rights supporters are expected to gather in Washington starting Friday for the march and other events.

Among the events Saturday: A workshop on tactics for repealing the "don’t ask, don’t tell" rule and the laying of a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington National Cemetery. Workshops include "How to Organize on Campus" and "Adoption Option: Adoption Is an Option."

-- Steve Padilla

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Photo: Matthew Shepard. Credit: Associated Press

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