The Senate approved legislation today that broadened the definition of federal hate crimes to include attacks based on sexual orientation. The Senate voted 68-29 to approve the measure attached to a $680 billion defense bill.
The bill has frustrated several conservative Christian groups who feared that pastors would see repercussions from the law. The latest version of the bill included new language that explicitly protected an excused person's free exercise of religion.
Scholars and activists have disagreed over whether a minister could be prosecuted, if he or she preached against homosexuality and a parishioner would later commit a hate crime against someone for being gay.
Tony Perkins, president of Family Research Council, said in a statement that the measure was "part of a radical social agenda that could ultimately silence Christians and use the force of government to marginalize anyone whose faith is at odds with homosexuality."
FRC also warns of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, a repeal of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and the end of the Defense of Marriage Act.
President Obama has promised to sign the hate crimes bill into law.