Violent crimes committed based on a person’s disability would become federal hate crimes offenses under legislation approved by the House of Representatives Thursday.

The measure builds upon the 1968 hate crimes act by adding disability, gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected statuses. Current law includes protections for crimes committed based on a person’s race, color, religion or national origin.

The move comes on the heels of a Justice Department study released earlier this month indicating that people with disabilities are 50 percent more likely to experience nonfatal violent crime as compared to their peers. Of crime victims with disabilities, the study indicated that about one in five said they thought their disability was the reason they were targeted.

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“No American should ever have to suffer persecution or violence because of who they are, how they look or what they believe,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said of the hate crimes bill, which passed as part of a larger defense spending bill. “This legislation also gives state and local law enforcement the tools they need to prevent and prosecute hate crimes nationwide, helping protect Americans against bias-motivated violence and securing our fundamental right to feel safe in our communities.”

Many Republicans, however, voted against the defense spending bill because the hate crimes provision — which they called “thought crimes legislation” — was included.

The legislation must still be approved by the Senate and by President Barack Obama, both of which are likely.