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New Hate Crimes Bill May Help D.C. Gay Marriage Law

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Some local activists are reacting to the passage of a U.S. Senate bill extending hate crime protections to include victims targeted for their sexual orientation or gender identity. They say the legislation signals a shift in political momentum within the District.

Sean Bugg is the co-publisher of Metro Weekly, Washington's gay and lesbian weekly news magazine. When news got out the Senate passed the much-anticipated hate crimes bill, he joined a busy online community of gay activists and supporters who were spreading the word.

"Watching everyone's reaction through twitter and email and web sites, there's this sort of sense of relief that finally something is happening," he says.

D.C. already has hate crimes legislation in place, but Bugg says the new federal law provides an additional avenue for prosecution.

"It's like the keystone in a lot of ways and I think that's how some people are seeing it," he says. "This keystone's been moved and now everything else can start moving forward. It's like the gears of government are finally working in our favor."

But the measure has conservative groups worried. Tom McClusky is Vice President of the Family Research Council. He says passage of the bill makes his next local fight more difficult.

"Especially in the District of Columbia, it will embolden the DC City Council to go further and try to ram through what they're already trying to ram through - having the District of Columbia recognize same sex marriages within the District," he says.

The House passed the same hate crimes bill earlier this month, and President Obama says he will sign the bill into law.

Mana Rabiee reports...

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