WASHINGTON -- President Clinton announced Thursday he signed an executive order allowing for tougher sentences under the U.S. military's criminal code for hate crimes motivated by race, color, religion and sexual orientation.

In a written statement, Clinton said he signed the order to amend the military's Manual for Courts-Martial, which sets out procedures for criminal trials in the armed forces."As in the case of laws that apply in civilian courts, this rule sends a strong message that violence based on hatred will not be tolerated," Clinton said. White House officials said Clinton signed the order Wednesday.

The release of the announcement coincided with a Clinton appearance later Thursday at a dinner benefiting the Empire State Pride Agenda in New York, raising more than $1 million for the nation's largest statewide gay and lesbian political advocacy group.

The president told some 1,700 gay and lesbian activists and their supporters that he backed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act, which would ban workplace discrimination against gays, and a Hate Crimes Prevention Act that would include gays and lesbians.

The executive order signed by Clinton allows military judges to consider whether offenses were motivated by the victim's race, color, religion, national origin, ethnicity, gender, disability or sexual orientation.

The order, called for by gay advocates, came in the wake of the killing last July 5 of Army Pvt. Barry Winchell at Fort Campbell, Ky., because he was believed to be homosexual. He was beaten to death with a baseball bat.

Clinton's order also extended limited protection to homosexuals in the military who confide their sexual orientation to psychotherapists. Gay and lesbian service members can now talk to psychotherapists about their sexual orientation in regard to criminal matters without having it used against them.

Advocates for gays in the military have complained that therapists have been turning in and ultimately forcing the discharge of gay and lesbian service members who sought counseling about being gay.