Hate-crimes legislation passes House

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Jewish groups are hailing House passage of hate-crimes legislation.

The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act by a vote of 249-175.

The legislation would permit greater federal involvement in investigating hate crimes and expand the federal definition of such crimes to include those motivated by gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

The Anti-Defamation League, Jewish Council for Public Affairs and Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism all lauded the vote. In a statement, ADL national director Abraham Foxman and national chair Glen Lewy said it was an "essential and necessary step forward in the national effort to counter hate crimes."

Supporters, including many Jewish groups, have been pushing the measure for a decade. Majorities in both houses of Congress have approved the bill in previous years, but it has been eliminated in conference committees when attached to larger bills — under the threat of a possible veto by former President George W. Bush.

President Obama backed the legislation, however, enhancing its chances for final passage.

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