The U.S. Senate voted Thursday evening to attach Senate Bill 909, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, to a defense bill which faces a potential veto by President Obama.

According to

The measure still has a way to go. Obama has told Congress he will veto the defense bill if it includes more money for an F-22 fighter program he is trying to terminate. The House in April passed a similar hate crimes bill, but did it as independent legislation not tied to a larger bill.

The Senate bill, also sponsored by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., only authorizes federal prosecutions of hate crimes when the state or local authorities are unwilling or unable to do so. It provides $5 million in grants to state and local law enforcement officials who have trouble meeting the costs of investigating and prosecuting these crimes.

Reid, D-Nev., recalled that Laramie, Wyo., was overwhelmed by the costs of pursuing the case against Matthew Shepard, the gay college student killed in 1998 whose name is attached to the bill. “When this bill becomes law, that will never happen again in Laramie, Wyo., or anyplace else in the country.”

Supporters also emphasized that prosecutions under the bill can occur only when bodily injury is involved, and no minister or protester could be targeted for expressing opposition to homosexuality, even if their statements are followed by another person committing a violent action.

The legislation against hate crimes has thus far survived a campaign of lies by religious-right organizations which favor lenient punishment of felony violence committed against persons whom felons assume are gay or transgender. People for the American Way has documented and refuted the religious-right deceptions in detail.