WASHINGTON (AP) - The House has voted to significantly expand four-decades-old hate crimes law to protect those attacked because of their sexual orientation.
The Senate is expected to act soon on the bill, which is attached to must-pass defense policy legislation.
With passage, federal prosecutors will for the first time be able to intervene in cases of violence perpetrated against people because of gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Congress has been trying unsuccessfully for more than a decade to extend hate crimes to include attacks on gays and women, and it was a top legislative priority of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy.
President Barack Obama, unlike his predecessor George W. Bush, is a strong supporter of the hate crimes legislation.