By JIM ABRAMS (AP) – 39 minutes agoWASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday approved the most sweeping expansion of federal hate crimes law since Congress responded four decades ago to the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr.
The legislation, backed by President Barack Obama, would extend federal protections granted under the 1968 hate crimes law to cover those physically attacked because of their gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
"This bill simply recognizes that there is a difference between assaulting someone to steal his money, or doing so because he is gay, or disabled, or Latino or Muslim," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said.
Voice vote passage came immediately after supporters cleared a 60-vote procedural hurdle imposed by Republicans trying to block consideration of the legislation. That vote was 63-28.
The hate crimes bill was offered as an amendment to a must-pass defense spending bill that the Senate is expected to finish some time next week. Several Republican amendments to the hate crimes legislation still could be considered on Monday, but Thursday's vote determined that it will be part of the defense bill when it passes.
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