WASHINGTON, Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The House voted Thursday to expand the scope of U.S. hate-crime law to include crimes based on gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.
The vote was 281-146 to expand the definition of violent hate crime under federal law, with most Democrats and more than 40 Republicans voting in the majority, The New York Times reported. Republican leaders criticized Democratic leaders for making the measure part of a $681 billion defense bill.
"We believe this is a poison pill, poisonous enough that we refuse to be blackmailed into voting for a piece of social agenda that has no place in this bill," said Rep. Todd Akin, R-Mo., a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee.
Supporters of the measure invoked the memory of Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student who was tortured and subsequently murdered near Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998.
"Left unchecked, crimes of this kind threaten to ruin the very fabric of America," Rep. Susan Davis, D-Calif., said in support of the measure.
House Minority Leader John Boehner, R-Ohio, joined other Republicans in arguing the measure would prosecute so-called thought crimes.
"The idea that we're going to pass a law that's going to add further charges to someone based on what they may have been thinking I think is wrong," Boehner said.
The measure is considered likely to win approval in the Senate, the newspaper said.