The act was named for two victims who died horrible deaths in violence motivated by the sort of hate the legislation outlaws. The new law will enable Federal prosecutors to go after those who commit violence based on sexual orientation, race, religion, gender, national origin, disability, or gender identity by extending the current hate crimes statute to specifically cover such crimes.
Senators Specter, Levin and Leahy spoke to the press and advocates for the legislation. Levin made it clear that religious leaders can continue to express their beliefs [concerning the morality of behavior protected by the law] as they see fit. The bill only applies to bias-motivated crimes of violence, and includes strong protections of speech and association. President Obama is expected to sign the bill soon.
Source: Jill Greenberg, former Executive Director, National Association for Multicultural Education.