Around the country people are preparing
to remember the tenth anniversary of a brutal anti-gay attack near
Laramie, Wyoming that left twenty-one year-old Matthew Shepard dead.
Shepard, a student at the University of
Wyoming, was beaten, shackled to a post and left to die in a field by
two men he had met in a gay bar. He was found comatose, but died
five days later on October 12th.
The crime triggered a nationwide
discussion on violence against gays and lesbians. Particularly,
anti-gay crimes committed against young gay men and women.
The University of Wyoming honored
Shepard's memory Saturday with the dedication of a bench outside the
university's arts and sciences building. “Matthew Wayne Shepard
Dec. 1, 1976-Oct. 12, 1998. Beloved son, brother, and friend. He
continues to make a difference. Peace be with him and all who sit
here,” reads the inscription on the bench.
“We've learned a lot, we've talked a
lot; we do it in public forums now,” Judy Shepard, Matthew's
mother, said at the dedication. “So it's a wonderful tribute to
Matt that these kinds of things are discussed.”
Matthew Shepard's parents have become
vocal supporters of hate crimes legislation. Judy Shepard lamented
the fact that Wyoming has not adopted such laws.
“I regret that,” she said. “We
still have some negative legislation attempts and discussion and
those kind of things. But I'm confident that as the Equality State
we can move forward, set an example and really make a statement about
what it means to be equal to everybody else.”
How hate effects the gay and lesbian
community was the focus of a Chicago rally Saturday in memory of
“Violence does not happen in a
vacuum,” Truth Wins Out Executive Director Wayne Besen, a scheduled
speaker at the rally, wrote on his blog. “There is a multi-million
dollar anti-gay industry that dehumanizes us every day. They pump
millions of dollars into making GLBT [gay, lesbian, bisexual and
transgender] people appear to be moral monsters and then act
surprised when hate crimes occur. We are marching to speak out
against this poisonous rhetoric that has harmed so many families.”
On October 13th, the Matthew
Shepard Foundation plans to mark the tenth anniversary of the
anti-gay crime with a candlelight ceremony at Loring Park in
The two men who killed Shepard are
serving life sentences in prison.
On the net: The Matthew Shepard
Foundation at www.matthewshepard.org