As passage of a federal hate crime bill appears to be nearing its finish line, Judy Shepard, the bill's biggest advocate, appears to have evolved from the single issue of fighting against gay hate to a full-time gay rights activist.

Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, the twenty-one-year-old University of Wyoming student who was viciously murdered in 1998 by two men he met in a gay bar. He was beaten and left to die shackled to a post along a rural road near Laramie.

Shepard has spent much of the last decade lobbying for the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act that would add disability, gender and sexual orientation to the list of federal hate crime protections. Representatives approved the bill earlier this year, but a Senate version – sponsored by the late Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy – has yet to be finalized.

Shepard is shopping a new book titled The Meaning of Matthew in a final push to pass the legislation.

Speaking Tuesday on NPR's Talk of the Nation, Shepard sounded assured that her fight for gay and lesbian rights would not end with passage of the legislation.

“As parents of gay children we see what society has done to us and to them,” Shepard told host Neal Conan. “We somehow, either intentionally or unintentionally perhaps, indoctrinate everyone to think that being gay is wrong. It isn't wrong, it's just who you are. It's the way you were born. Nothing about that makes our gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender children different than any other children, except who they love. And at the end of the day, does that really matter to anybody? It's their life, it's who they are. And to try and convince them that they are wrong only damages them irreparably. And suicide is often the tragic result of that.”

She spoke about how her son's death had transformed her and the gay community.

“What has happened to Matt has lead to other things. We now have public discussions, at least in this country, about the gay community. We have same-sex marriage in places around the world, and a larger acceptance of the gay community.”

And once again spoke about why hate crime legislation is important.

“I used to think before what happened to Matt that crime was crime and all crime had an element of hate. I was in high school in the sixties during the civil rights movement and I saw what hate did to a collection of people. I understood the reasons to legislate in the civil rights era for hate crimes against race, religion and ethnicity. Because that's what we were seeing; hate being directed at a community of people. We understood that a cross burning in someone's yard wasn't meant to intimidate the owner of the property, but was meant to intimidate the entire African-American community. It represented lynching and mob mentality, and the KKK and all that hate that was so visible. What we see now is that hate directed toward the gay community, toward Islam, toward all kinds of things that we don't understand, that we fear.”

“Hate crime legislation,” Shepard began, then added, “Well, let me kind of back up here a minute. It wasn't those two men's thoughts that murdered Matt, it was their actions. And they singled out Matt solely because he was gay. That made it the hate crime.”

“[Hate crime legislation] will add uniformity and consistency to the way we report hate crimes and the way they happen. We can't really address them until we find out why they're happening, how they're happening, where they're happening. It's a crime meant to terrorize the community, not so much the individual alone, but the community.”