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Senate passes hate-crimes bill

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WASHINGTON (JTA) — The Senate approved legislation that would expand federal involvement in investigating hate crimes.

By a 63-28 vote Thursday, the measure was attached to the defense authorization bill, considered "must-pass" legislation by the Senate. Five Republicans joined every Democrat present to vote in favor.

The Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act 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. Supporters say the legislation would allow federal authorities to pursue hate-crimes cases when local authorities are either unable or unwilling to do so.

The House passed a similar bill in April, and President Obama has said he would sign the legislation. The bill has passed both houses of Congress previously, but has not survived the conference committee process.

A number of Jewish groups, headed by the Anti-Defamation League, have been working for a decade to enact the measure.

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