On October 9, 1999, James Byrd Jr's family joined gay rights activists in Washington to campaign for an expanded hate crime legislation. His relatives and Attorney General Janet Reno were joined by the family of Matthew Shepard, a gay man beaten to death in 1998 in Wyoming.
The legislation would offer federal protection to those attacked because of their sexual orientation. It would eventually be called the James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Act.