Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act

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Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2010 that granted more authority for Federal investigations into hate crimes and provided funding for state and local investigations into hate crimes. The bill expanded prior Federal hate crimes legislation to include protections for violent acts based on actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity. The bill only covered actual acts of violence, not threats of violence or other verbal conduct. 

The Act is named after Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr., victims of hate crimes. Matthew Shepard was a gay student who was beaten to death in Wyoming in 1998. James Byrd Jr. was an African American man who was murdered by white supremacists in Texas in 1998. Prior legislation attempted to expand the coverage of hate crime laws after these hate crimes, but it was not until the Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 that a bill managed to be passed. 

[Last updated in July of 2021 by the Wex Definitions Team]