From NBC's Bobby Cervantes
For the 14th and final time since the 105th Congress, the U.S. Senate today passed a $680 billion Defense Reauthorization Bill, including a hate-crimes amendment aimed at protecting the LGBT community.
In a 68-29 vote, the Senate voted to approve the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which would lend federal assistance to states and localities that are unwilling or unable to investigate and prosecute crimes motivated by sexual orientation and gender identity.
The bill, which the House approved earlier this month, now makes its way to President Obama's desk.
The president has routinely pledged to sign the bill, most recently at his keynote address to the Human Rights Campaign, the nation's largest gay rights group.
"It is no secret that issues of great concern to gays and lesbians are ones that raise a great deal of emotion in this country," the president told the HRC. "And it's no secret that progress has been incredibly difficult -- we can see that with the time and dedication it took to pass hate crimes legislation."
One of gay rights groups' big-ticket items, the hate-crimes legislation, may allay some activists, who have expressed impatience with what they perceive as the president's unwillingness to make good on campaign promises to their community.