-President Obama signed major civil rights legislation on Wednesday, making it a federal hate crime to assault people based on sexual orientation, gender and gender identity. The new measure expands the the scope of a 1968 law that applies to people attacked because of their race, religion or national origin. The U.S. Justice Department will have expanded authority to prosecute such crimes when local authorities don't.
The provision, called the Matthew Shepard & James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It is named after Matthew Shepard, a gay college student tortured and killed in 1998, and James Byrd Jr., a black man who was chained to a pickup truck and dragged to his death the same year.