Obama on Hate Crimes Legislation Signing: “the bells of freedom ring out a little louder”

Oct 28, 2009 7:26pm

From Sunlen Miller: President Obama today held a separate reception to note the signing of the hate crimes legislation, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, within the 2010 National Defense Authorization Act. Quoting President Johnson’s words when he signed civil rights legislation into law in 1968, Obama said that "the bells of freedom ring out a little louder," today when he signed the Act into law. “You understood that we must stand against crimes that are meant not only to break bones, but to break spirits — not only to inflict harm, but to instill fear,” Mr. Obama said, “You understand that the rights afforded every citizen under our Constitution mean nothing if we do not protect those rights — both from unjust laws and violent acts.  And you understand how necessary this law continues to be. ” The long-sought hate crimes provision extends federal hate crimes law to include crimes motivated by a victim's gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. “No one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love.  No one in America should be forced to look over their shoulder because of who they are or because they live with a disability.  At root, this isn't just about our laws; this is about who we are as a people.  This is about whether we value one another — whether we embrace our differences, rather than allowing them to become a source of animus.” The President said that for centuries the nation has strived to live up to the founding ideals of the country: all are free and equal and able to pursue their own version of happiness. He noted that since there have been periods of division and discord in the country yet through all that the nation has grown stronger, fairer, and freer. “At every turn, we've made progress not only by changing laws but by changing hearts, by our willingness to walk in another's shoes, by our capacity to love and accept even in the face of rage and bigotry. The President was joined on stage by family members of Matthew Shepard, as well as James Byrd’s sister. Members of the civil right community, gay rights community and members of Congress were in the audience for the reception. -Sunlen Miller

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