Showing posts with label Matthew Shepard. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Matthew Shepard. Show all posts

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Repost: LGBT History Month: Matthew Shepard Died Today*

*originally posted October 12, 2009
He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay. But it wasn't the kid who got noticed on this day eleven years ago, it was his murder that caught us all, gay and straight, off-guard.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. And he was gay. And, for being gay, he was tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His attack occurred on October 6, but Mathew didn't die until almost a week later.

Matthew was born in Wyoming, and grew up there. He spent his last high school year at The American School in Switzerland. After high school, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver before becoming a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming.

Political science. Matthew might have been a politician, or a community organizer, or a gay rights activist. Or a teacher or a bartender or any number of other things which we'll never know because he never got the chance to be anything else.

He was described by his parents, Judy and Dennis, as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

He might have done so much.

But Matthew knew he was gay, and so did many other people. And like so many in the LGBT community, he faced physical and verbal abuse all throughout his life, and death. In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, leaving him withdrawn from friends and family and battling depression and panic attacks. But he soldiered on, went back to school and seemed to be coming out of his depression.

Then, just after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. They took him to a remote area, tied him to a fence, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured him, and left him to die. They also found his address and decided to rob his home as well.

Matthew Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook the beaten, dying young man for a scarecrow. Matthew was barely alive. And suffering.

There was a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also a dozen or more lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.

Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 12, 1998.

Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis. They used the gay panic defense, arguing that they beat, tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he came on to them. They even tired to say they only wanted to rob him, not hurt him.

But they hurt an entire community.

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in April, 1999, and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he was given two consecutive life sentences. The jury found Aaron McKinney guilty of felony murder, and as they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard told McKinney the sentence means:
“You won’t be a symbol.
No years of publicity, no chance of commutation, no nothing—just a miserable future and a miserable end.
It works for me….
Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives.
May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”

He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. And he could have been any one of us, but in death, Matthew did what hadn't really been done before. He shone a light on hate crimes against the LGBT community. He gave us a face and a smile that needn't have been snuffed out so readily.

He could have been any one of us. He is every one of us.


On This Day In LGBT History
October 12, 1774 – Adolph Jans van Oldeberkoop of Frisia Netherlands, a fifty year old customs officer, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and banished for two years.
October 12, 1971 – The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recommended the repeal of a law prohibiting homosexuals from working in or frequenting bars.
October 12, 1979 – The National Coalition of Black Gays sponsored a conference in Washington DC, The First Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference.
October 12, 1998 – Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, died of injuries inflicted during a gay bashing.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

In Maryland, Martin O'Malley Signs Death Penalty Repeal


First off, I think he’s kinda hot. There, I said it. I’m shallow like that. But, secondly, he signed into law Maryland’s same-sex marriage law, so he’s hot and an LGBT ally. But now, Maryland Governor, Martin O’Malley has abolished the death penalty in his state, making Maryland the second state south of the Mason-Dixon Line to abolish the death penalty in nearly 50 years, alongside West Virginia. Maryland is now the 18th state to abolish the death penalty; Delaware also made a push to repeal it this year, but the bill has stalled.
"I don't know exactly what the timing is, but over the longer arc of history I think you'll see more and more states repeal the death penalty. It's wasteful. It's ineffective. It doesn't work to reduce violent crime."—Governor O’Malley
Here’s the deal, well, my deal on the death penalty. What good does it serve? Does it stop murderers and violent criminals? Does it miraculously bring the victims of violent crime back to life? Does it provide closure?

That last one, I’m not so sure about, but I do know that if murder is illegal—and it is—then how is state sanctioned murder acceptable? Murder is murder. And let’s not even raise the issue of anyone being put to death, only to discover, years later, that they were innocent of the crime. Think that doesn’t happen? Well, Kirk Bloodsworth, a Maryland man was the first person in the U.S. freed because of DNA evidence after a conviction in a death penalty case proved his innocence. He is alive and attended the O’Malley news conference.

For me, the death penalty is barbaric. It serves no purpose, it is not a deterrent, and it costs more money than convicting violent criminals and sentencing them to life without parole. There aren’t years and years of appeals, which cost the taxpayers’ money. The criminal is put away, for good. For good.

For me, putting a man, or woman, to death isn’t punishment; they’re dead, they don’t know anything, or feel anything. But, if you take that criminal and lock them up until the day they die, and they sit in prison day after day, year after year, thinking, and reliving, the reasons why they’re behind bars, that’s punishment. Oh, and before you say that these violent criminals have no remorse, I say, So what? They’re still locked up; their lives, as they knew them, are over.

I can go on and on about why I think this way, but the one person who said it better than me is the best person to quote now.

We all remember that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson murdered Matthew Shepard in Wyoming in 1998. But, what some may not know is that Matthew’s father, Dennis Shepard, spoke at Aaron McKinney’s sentencing hearing [Henderson, at the time, had already pleaded guilty and was sentenced to life without parole.] With the agreement of Judy and Dennis Shepard, Henderson and McKinney will spend the rest of their lives behind bars. In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard said that the sentence means:
I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney.
However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. To use this as the first step in my own closure about losing Matt.
Mr. McKinney, I am not doing this because of your family. I am definitely not doing this because of the crass and unwarranted pressures put on by the religious community. If anything, that hardens my resolve to see you die.
Mr. McKinney, I’m going to grant you life, as hard as that is for me to do, because of Matthew. Every time you celebrate Christmas, a birthday, or the Fourth of July, remember that Matt isn’t.
Every time that you wake up in that prison cell, remember that you had the opportunity and the ability to stop your actions that night. Every time that you see your cell mate, remember that you had a choice, and now you are living that choice.
You robbed me of something very precious, and I will never forgive you for that.
Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.
That, to me, says it all. And so, today, I’d like to thank Governor O’Malley for his efforts to abolish the death penalty in one more state.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Good News Friday: Jacob Stallman Takes Back His Life

Jacob, Jake, Stallman is gay. In fact, he's known he's been gay for a long time and endured years of bullying about it. But Jake is not letting the bullies win. Jake is taking back his life, and is talking to others who have been, or are being, bullied at his blog on Matthew's Place, called Jake's Place.
This is his story:

“Your son is a fag, and we are coming to kill him.”
Those were the words said to my mother about me the day after the local newspaper printed my mom’s story about her fight against bullying. My name is Jacob Stallman — Jake for short. I am 17 years old and in high school in a small town in Iowa. I came out to my mom in 7th grade.
It was a scary process. I didn’t know if she was going to hate me or love me the same. I was wrong because she ended up loving me more. Being gay is just a part of who I am. The night I received the death threat I just couldn’t understand how someone could hate another person so much that they would want to kill him. Ever since, I have been busy with interviews with radio stations and newspapers, and with my mom’s help, we got my story out there.
I know what it feels like to want to end your life. I have thought of killing myself three times. I know that hearing “it is going to get better” sucks; you want it to get better NOW! I was just like that. It is a slow process, but it’s like climbing a huge hill — once you get up to the top you have the best view ever. Climbing that hill and all that work only makes it more enjoyable. The same goes with it gets better. It makes your life better; it is a boost to keep you going.
My friend has recently convinced me to try out for cheerleading. I am now going to start weight lifting, and I am getting stronger. I am doing this because my school has no male cheerleaders. I am going to change that  — I hope!
My blog’s name is “Jake’s Place.” This is a place to feel safe. Send me an email, ask me a question, and I will answer them in my next blog entry. No one should ever feel alone. I am here to help. You are all amazing, and even if you don’t have any questions, shoot me an email at stallman (dot) jacob63 (at) gmail (dot) com and tell me your story. I am all ears.
Congratulations Jake, and what you're doing is an amazing thing.
Stand up, be proud of who you are and no one will ever be able to bully you again.


Monday, March 25, 2013

Imagine a World Without Hate

Imagine a World Without Hate™
In honor of our Centennial Year in 2013, the Anti-Defamation League launched the “Imagine a World Without Hate” video and action campaign, and we invite you to participate.
Take just 80 seconds of your time to watch this powerful video, which imagines a world without racism, homophobia or anti-Semitism — a world in which the hate violence that took the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Anne Frank, Daniel Pearl, Matthew Shepard and others did not happen. Imagine what these individuals could have continued to contribute to society if bigotry, hate and extremism had not cut their lives tragically short.
After 100 years of fighting bigotry and fostering respect, we are celebrating our successes, while at the same time recognizing that we still have a long way to go to achieve the reality of a world without hate. Join us by watching, sharing and taking steps every day to create a world without hate. Thank you for stepping up to create a world without hate as an individual, community, school or corporation.
ADL is most grateful to the families of those featured in the video, whose commitment and participation made this campaign possible, and to the Estate of John Lennon for granting us the rights to use his beautiful and iconic song.
Imagine a World Without Hate™. We do. Join us.



On April 4, 1968, while standing on a balcony outside his room at the Lorraine Motel, Dr. King was struck by a sniper’s bullet. King was rushed to St. Joseph's Hospital, where, at age 39, he was pronounced dead later that evening.

Imagine. What if .........

Anne Frank was born in Frankfurt, Germany in 1929, before the Frank family moved to Amsterdam in 1933, the year the Nazis gained control over Germany. As persecutions of Jews increased in July 1942, the family went into hiding in secret rooms in Anne's father's office building when she was 13 years old. After two years of hiding, the family was betrayed and transported to concentration camps. Anne Frank and her sister, Margot, were eventually transferred to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died of typhus in March 1945. 

Imagine. What if .........

Harvey Milk became the first openly gay man to be elected to public office in California, when he won a seat on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. He served less than a year in office before he was brutally assassinated by another city supervisor. His life profoundly changed a city, state, nation, a global community and me. 

Imagine. What if .........

James Byrd Jr. was an African American, graduate from the last segregated class at Jasper’s Rowe High School. Byrd went on to marry and have three children. In the pre-dawn hours of June 7, 1998, Byrd was walking home when he was stopped by three white men who offered him a ride. Byrd got in the bed of their pick-up truck, but the men did not take him home. Instead, they drove him to a desolate, wooded road east of town, beat him severely, chained him to the back of the truck by his ankles and dragged him for more than three miles. The murderers drove on for another mile before dumping his torso in front of an African-American cemetery.

Imagine. What if .........

In October of 2000, Daniel Pearl and his wife moved to Bombay, India where he became the South Asia Bureau Chief for The Wall Street Journal. Pearl covered many issues, including the "war on terrorism," occasionally venturing to Pakistan. He was retracing the steps of "shoe bomber" Richard Reid when he was abducted in Karachi on January 23, 2002. Millions of people around the world rallied for his release until a video, posted on the internet, showed his captors beheading him. In his final words, Pearl declared "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish." His tragic murder was confirmed on February 21, 2002.

Imagine. What if .........

Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old freshman at the University of Wyoming where he studied political science, foreign relations and languages. On October 7, 1998, a few hours after he had attended a planning meeting for Gay Awareness Week events on campus, Shepard was tortured and left tied to a fence by two men. After being discovered, he was taken to a hospital in Fort Collins; he died on October 12, 1998.

Imagine. What if .........

On November 4, 1995, Yitzhak Rabin appeared at a large peace rally in Tel Aviv, joining the singing of "Shir L'Shalom" (Song for Peace). Minutes later, as he was leaving the rally, an Israeli Jewish extremist, Yigal Amir, jumped out of the crowd and shot Rabin. Less than an hour later, Rabin was pronounced dead at a Tel Aviv-area hospital.

Imagine. What if .........

Friday, October 12, 2012

Repost: LGBT History Month: Matthew Shepard Died Today*



*originally posted October 12, 2009
He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay. But it wasn't the kid who got noticed on this day eleven years ago, it was his murder that caught us all, gay and straight, off-guard.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. And he was gay. And, for being gay, he was tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His attack occurred on October 6, but Mathew didn't die until almost a week later.

Matthew was born in Wyoming, and grew up there. He spent his last high school year at The American School in Switzerland. After high school, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver before becoming a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming.

Political science. Matthew might have been a politician, or a community organizer, or a gay rights activists. Or a teacher or a bartender or any number of other things which we'll never know because he never got the chance to be anything else.

He was described by his parents, Judy and Dennis, as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

He might have done so much.

But Matthew knew he was gay, and so did many other people. And like so many in the LGBT community, he faced physical and verbal abuse all throughout his life, and death. In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, leaving him withdrawn from friends and family and battling depression and panic attacks. But he soldiered on, went back to school and seemed to be coming out of his depression.

Then, just after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. They took him to a remote area, tied him to a fence, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured him, and left him to die. They also found his address and decided to rob his home as well.

Matthew Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook the beaten, dying young man for a scarecrow. Matthew was barely alive. And suffering.

There was a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart ratebody temperature and other vital functions. There were also a dozen or more lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.

Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 12, 1998.

Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis. They used the gay panic defense, arguing that they beat, tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he came on to them. They even tired to say they only wanted to rob him, not hurt him.

But they hurt an entire community.

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in April, 1999, and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he was given two consecutive life sentences. The jury found Aaron McKinney guilty of felony murder, and as they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard told McKinney the sentence means:
“You won’t be a symbol. No years of publicity, no chance of commutation, no nothing—just a miserable future and a miserable end. It works for me….Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”


He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. And he could have been any one of us. But in death, Matthew did what hadn't really been done before. He shone a light on hate crimes against the LGBT community. He gave us a face and a smile that needn't have been snuffed out so readily.

He could have been any one of us. He is every one of us.



On This Day In LGBT History
October 12, 1774 – Adolph Jans van Oldeberkoop of Frisia Netherlands, a fifty year old customs officer, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and banished for two years.
October 12, 1971 – The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recommended the repeal of a law prohibiting homosexuals from working in or frequenting bars.
October 12, 1979 – The National Coalition of Black Gays sponsored a conference in Washington DC, The First Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference.
October 12, 1998 – Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, died of injuries inflicted during a gay bashing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Judy Shepard Remembers Her Son Today

Thirteen years ago this week his father, brother and I were at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colo., with our firstborn son, Matthew Shepard. He was 21, and dying. Just days before, he had been just like millions of American college students whose names are not known to the world -- getting the hang of his new classes, adapting to a new campus, making friends. His father and I thought his biggest challenges were keeping money in his checking account and getting his homework in on time.

But here he was in intensive care, the victim of a terrible, senseless attack at the hands of two other young men who, at some point in their lives, learned it was OK to hate others for being different, to victimize them, to disregard their humanity.



Matt passed away quietly in the early morning hours of Oct. 12, 1998, with his family at his bedside. He died because of violence fueled by anti-gay hatred. For a lot of reasons, some of which we will probably never quite understand, the world had been watching, praying for him, and voicing their outrage.


October cannot go by anymore, and never will again, without us wondering what might have been, for us and for so many other families, if hatred of gay, and lesbian, and bisexual, and transgendered people, and all those whom others simply think might be, had been rooted out long ago.


via Towleroad

Repost: Matthew Shepard Died Today

This was first posted in 2009, on this date:

He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. But it wasn't just the kid who got noticed on this day eleven years ago, it was his murder that caught us all, gay and straight, off-guard.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. And he was gay. And, for being gay, he was tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His attack occurred on October 6, but Mathew didn't die until almost a week later.

Matthew was born in Wyoming, and grew up there. He spent his last high school year at The American School in Switzerland. After high school, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver before becoming a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming.

Political science. Matthew might have been a politician, or a community organizer, or a gay rights activists. Or a teacher or a bartender or any number of other things which we'll never know because he never got the chance to be anything else.

He was described by his parents, Judy and Dennis, as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

He might have done so much.

But Matthew knew he was gay, and so did many other people. And like so many in the LGBT community, he faced physical and verbal abuse all throughout his life, and death. In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, leaving him withdrawn from friends and family and battling depression and panic attacks. But he soldiered on, went back to school and seemed to be coming out of his depression.

Then, just after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. They took him to a remote area, tied him to a fence, robbed him, pistol whipped him, tortured him, and left him to die. They also found his address and decided to rob his home as well.

Matthew Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook the beaten, dying young man for a scarecrow. Matthew was barely alive. And suffering.

There was a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also a dozen or more lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.

Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 12, 1998.

Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis. They used the gay panic defense, arguing that they beat, tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he came on to them. They even tired to say they only wanted to rob him, not hurt him.

But they hurt an entire community.

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in April, 1999, and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he was given two consecutive life sentences. The jury found Aaron McKinney guilty of felony murder, and as they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard told McKinney the sentence means:
“You won’t be a symbol. No years of publicity, no chance of commutation, no nothing—just a miserable future and a miserable end. It works for me….Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”
He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. And he could have been any one of us. But in death, Matthew did what hadn't really been done before. He shone a light on hate crimes against the LGBT community. He gave us a face and a smile that needn't have been snuffed out so readily.

He could have been any one of us. He is every one of us.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Repost: Matthew Shepard Died Today

This was first posted last year, on the date:

He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay. But it wasn't the kid who got noticed on this day eleven years ago, it was his murder that caught us all, gay and straight, off-guard.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. And he was gay. And, for being gay, he was tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His attack occurred on October 6, but Mathew didn't die until almost a week later.

Matthew was born in Wyoming, and grew up there. He spent his last high school year at The American School in Switzerland. After high school, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver before becoming a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming.

Political science. Matthew might have been a politician, or a community organizer, or a gay rights activists. Or a teacher or a bartender or any number of other things which we'll never know because he never got the chance to be anything else.

He was described by his parents, Judy and Dennis, as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

He might have done so much.

But Matthew knew he was gay, and so did many other people. And like so many in the LGBT community, he faced physical and verbal abuse all throughout his life, and death. In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, leaving him withdrawn from friends and family and battling depression and panic attacks. But he soldiered on, went back to school and seemed to be coming out of his depression.

Then, just after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. They took him to a remote area, tied him to a fence, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured him, and left him to die. They also found his address and decided to rob his home as well.

Matthew Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook the beaten, dying young man for a scarecrow. Matthew was barely alive. And suffering.

There was a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also a dozen or more lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.

Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 12, 1998.

Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis. They used the gay panic defense, arguing that they beat, tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he came on to them. They even tired to say they only wanted to rob him, not hurt him.

But they hurt an entire community.

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in April, 1999, and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he was given two consecutive life sentences. The jury found Aaron McKinney guilty of felony murder, and as they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard told McKinney the sentence means:
“You won’t be a symbol. No years of publicity, no chance of commutation, no nothing—just a miserable future and a miserable end. It works for me….Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”
He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. And he could have been any one of us. But in death, Matthew did what hadn't really been done before. He shone a light on hate crimes against the LGBT community. He gave us a face and a smile that needn't have been snuffed out so readily.

He could have been any one of us. He is every one of us.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Are They Really Saying Judy Shepard Doesn't Know What She's Talking About?


File this one under Seriously Stupid:

Matthew Shepard;s mother, Judy, has written a memoir, The Meaning of Matthew, which chronicles the 1998 hate-crimes murder of Matthew Shepard, and Judy Shepard emergence as an LGBT rights advocate. It was a New York Times’ best-seller when it was published last fall and will be out in paperback this month.

It has also been rejected from the summer reading program at Appalachian State University in Boone, N.C. because some people at the school say the book is considered homophobic.

Homophobic? A mother's account of her son's murder for being gay is homophobic?

Kathy Staley, an archivist at ASU’s Belk Library, wrote on her Facebook page: “Did anyone find Judy Shepard’s The Meaning of Matthew homophobic? I didn’t but ASU’s summer reading program nixed it because two readers found it homophobic.”

Emory Maiden, an English professor and director of the summer reading program, says he is unaware of anyone who found Shepard’s book homophobic, but did say that the reading group committee “wondered aloud about how her book would work as a discussion of the oppression of and attacks on those who are perceived to be ‘Other.’”

Um, because it's the story of such oppression and attack?

Maiden also said that that there were “concerns [on the committee] that a grief-stricken mother had gotten into print on a subject that she neither wholly understood nor [had] a broad experience with.”

Judy Shepard. The mother of a young man who was murdered for being gay and has since come out as a true fierce advocate for the LGBT community doesn't "wholly understand" or have a "broad experience" with the subject of her book: her son's death for being gay.

Wow. I was stunned stupefied and pissed off when I heard that. But then I learned that Appalachian State University is in the congressional district represented by Republican Virginia Foxx, who, you'll remember, called Matthew Shepard's murder "a hoax" when arguing against federal hate-crimes protections last year.

Now it makes sense.

Monday, October 12, 2009

LGBT History Month: Matthew Shepard Died Today



He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay. But it wasn't the kid who got noticed on this day eleven years ago, it was his murder that caught us all, gay and straight, off-guard.

Matthew Wayne Shepard was a twenty-one year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. And he was gay. And, for being gay, he was tortured and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming. His attack occurred on October 6, but Mathew didn't die until almost a week later.

Matthew was born in Wyoming, and grew up there. He spent his last high school year at The American School in Switzerland. After high school, he attended Catawba College and Casper College before he relocated to Denver before becoming a first-year political science major at the University of Wyoming.

Political science. Matthew might have been a politician, or a community organizer, or a gay rights activists. Or a teacher or a bartender or any number of other things which we'll never know because he never got the chance to be anything else.

He was described by his parents, Judy and Dennis, as "an optimistic and accepting young man [who] had a special gift of relating to almost everyone. He was the type of person who was very approachable and always looked to new challenges. Matthew had a great passion for equality and always stood up for the acceptance of people's differences."

He might have done so much.

But Matthew knew he was gay, and so did many other people. And like so many in the LGBT community, he faced physical and verbal abuse all throughout his life, and death. In 1995, during a high school trip to Morocco, he was beaten and raped, leaving him withdrawn from friends and family and battling depression and panic attacks. But he soldiered on, went back to school and seemed to be coming out of his depression.

Then, just after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson in a bar. McKinney and Henderson offered Shepard a ride in their car. They took him to a remote area, tied him to a fence, robbed, pistol whipped, tortured him, and left him to die. They also found his address and decided to rob his home as well.

Matthew Shepard was discovered 18 hours later by Aaron Kreifels, who mistook the beaten, dying young man for a scarecrow. Matthew was barely alive. And suffering.

There was a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital functions. There were also a dozen or more lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate.

Matthew Shepard never regained consciousness and was pronounced dead on October 12, 1998.

Police arrested McKinney and Henderson shortly thereafter, finding the bloody gun as well as the victim's shoes and wallet in their truck. The two men had attempted to persuade their girlfriends to provide alibis. They used the gay panic defense, arguing that they beat, tortured and killed Matthew Shepard because he came on to them. They even tired to say they only wanted to rob him, not hurt him.

But they hurt an entire community.

Russell Henderson pleaded guilty in April, 1999, and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; he was given two consecutive life sentences. The jury found Aaron McKinney guilty of felony murder, and as they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.

In a statement read to the court, Dennis Shepard told McKinney the sentence means:
“You won’t be a symbol. No years of publicity, no chance of commutation, no nothing—just a miserable future and a miserable end. It works for me….Mr. McKinney, I give you life in the memory of one who no longer lives. May you have a long life, and may you thank Matthew every day for it.”


He was just a kid. A slight kid, a sweet kid. A gay kid. And he could have been any one of us. But in death, Matthew did what hadn't really been done before. He shone a light on hate crimes against the LGBT community. He gave us a face and a smile that needn't have been snuffed out so readily.

He could have been any one of us. He is every one of us.



On This Day In LGBT History
October 12, 1774 – Adolph Jans van Oldeberkoop of Frisia Netherlands, a fifty year old customs officer, was convicted of seduction to sodomy and banished for two years.
October 12, 1971 – The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs recommended the repeal of a law prohibiting homosexuals from working in or frequenting bars.
October 12, 1979 – The National Coalition of Black Gays sponsored a conference in Washington DC, The First Third World Lesbian and Gay Conference.
October 12, 1998 – Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a Wyoming college student, died of injuries inflicted during a gay bashing.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hate Crimes Passage Not A Given Just Yet


The Matthew Shepard Act, the Hate crimes bill, passed on a voice vote yesterday.

Good news indeed, as it extends protections of the forty-one-year-old hate crimes law to include sexual orientation and gender identity.

The bad news is that the Matthew Shepard Act was attached as an amendment to a defense spending bill. It is partially linked to $1.75 billion in funding for F-22 fighter jets.

Hate crimes and fighter jets? How does that happen?

President Obama and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates both oppose the F-22 program and a White House spokesperson said the president will not sign a DOD bill that continues to fund the program.

So, the Matthew Shepard Act may not pass because they attached to a bill about fighter planes. Am I the only one that finds this nonsensical?
Majority Leader and optimist Harry Reid feels a rewritten bill will eventually pass with the hate crimes amendment in place.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Urgent Action Needed: Your Call Counts!

from the GayAgenda

"Right-wing groups are now calling the Matthew Shepard Act the “Pedophile Protection Act.”
It’s outrageous. What’s more, they are flooding the Senate with calls and letters to scare OUR senators into voting against this important bill to provide hate crime protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.
I just called my senators. It was really easy. It takes about 45 seconds. Will you stand with me and make a quick call?
The Senate is poised to vote on the Matthew Shepard Act THIS WEEK. But our allies are reporting an avalanche of 300,000 letters and calls from right-wing groups trying to stop it.
Anti-LGBT leaders like Focus on the Family’s James Dobson are now calling the bill “utter evil.” They’re even referring to it as the “Pedophile Protection Act.”
With a vote on hate crimes coming any day, we desperately need senators to hear from fair-minded people like you.
It takes about 45 seconds to call each one of your senators – and each one of them needs to hear from you today. It’s just as important for supportive senators to hear from us – they’ve promised to pass this bill, and they need to know we’re counting on them to keep fighting.
So make the call on your way to lunch, or stop reading this and do it right now. Whatever you do, make sure to CALL YOUR SENATORS TODAY.
If you’ve never called Congress, let me assure you, it’s incredibly easy. All you have to do is give your zip code, and ask whoever answers the phone to let your Senator know you want the to vote in favor of the Matthew Shepard Act!
To find you Senator and their contact information -
CLICK HERE!
It’s is up to US to win this battle against those who discriminate against us!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

Matthew Shepard Foundation Doesn't Take Hate Money

Let's recap.

Perez Hilton has a blog.
Perez Hilton uses said blog to personally attack celebrities by drawing penises on their pictures, implying or even declaring the celebrity to be gay, and just being a Mean Girl.
Perez Hilton attacks Fergie and the Black Eyed Peas on his "blog."
Perez Hilton goes to a Black Eyed Peas concert.
Perez Hilton gets into a verbal sparring match with will.i.am.
Perez Hilton calls will.i.am a faggot--the most hateful thing, according to Perez, that you can call someone.
Perez Hilton gets punched.
Perez Hilton blog cries.
Perez Hilton won't apologize for his use of the word faggot.
Perez Hilton finally succumbs to good sense--something for which his is not known--and apologizes for saying faggot.
Perez Hilton proclaims he is going to sue the alleged puncher and donate all his winnings in court to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation says No, thank you.
Snap!

from the Matthew Shepard Foundation:

The Matthew Shepard Foundation was surprised to learn this morning via media reports that blogger Perez Hilton (Mario Lavandeira) has announced he plans to donate, to our organization, the proceeds of a lawsuit he is contesting over an altercation which has been widely reported in recent days.
We had no advance notice or contact from Mr. Hilton or his representatives regarding this proposal, nor any communication since he posted this plan to his website. We do not know the details of the lawsuit, whether it has been filed, the nature of his claims or the likely outcome.
But because the lawsuit presumably involves the physical attack prompted by Mr. Hilton's admitted use of an anti-gay slur, the Foundation will be unable to accept any funds obtained in such a manner.
We very much appreciate the generosity of the offer to support our continuing work to memorialize Matthew through activism in defense of sexual minorities and in favor of understanding, compassion, and acceptance.
But because so much of our work involves education to reduce the use of hateful language against gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgendered persons, or those so perceived, it would be inappropriate for us to benefit financially from circumstances in which such a verbal attack was involved.
While we applaud Mr. Hilton's apology to the LGBT community and their loved ones for his use of such a slur, we also feel compelled to point out that use of epithets can often lead to physical violence, as it appears it may have in this case, and that the Matthew Shepard Foundation has worked for more than 10 years to bring to people's attention the consequences of hateful or intolerant language.
Judy Shepard
Chair, MSF Governing Board

Friday, May 01, 2009

Sorry


This has been quite the week for people saying something hurtful, and then apologizing, sort of, for it. I, myself, have felt the sting of someone else's words, and been offered an apology, but it makes me wonder:

When someone says something hurtful and then apologizes for it, do you take them at that word, or the words they said in the first place?

Judy Shepard doesn't think Asshat Award Winner, Repugnant Representative from North Carolina, Virginia Foxx was sincere when she apologized for calling the 1998 murder of Shepard's son, Matthew, "a hoax." Y'all remember that, during the House debate on the Hate Crimes Bill, the Matthew Shepard Act, Foxx said the Shepard's murder shouldn't be used to justify a hate crimes bill because it wasn't a hate crime; she said he was killed during a robbery.

But the true facts are that the young men who murdered Matthew targeted him because he was gay, pretended to be gay so they could get him outside. Sure, maybe they were looking for someone to rob that night, but their target was chosen because he was gay.

That's hate, Virginia, that's not a hoax.

Foxx says she based her statement on an ABC News, 20/20 story, of Matthew Shepard's murder. I have a small suggestion, Virginia. Read the transcripts of the trial. Read what the actual murderers said about why and how they did what they did.

Read, for God's sake, just read.

Then, pouring salt in the wound, Foxx issued an apology. She said something along the lines of I'm sorry IF I offended anyone.

If? So, you're not sorry FOR your stupidity and insensitivity and outright lies, you're only sorry IF you offended Matthew's family.

Well, Virginia, I'm sorry, too. I'm sorry you haven't been kicked out of office yet. I'm sorry you don't have the common sense to think before you speak. I'm sorry for the people of North Carolina who are no doubt shaking their heads in amazement over the idea that you represent them. I'm sorry you haven't taken the high road and resigned for being stupid and insensitive and a liar. But my apology has meaning, Virginia, yours was just more words.

You're sorry, all right, Virginia. A sorry excuse for an elected official. A sorry excuse for a human being. Just plain sorry.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Years In The Making


Finally!

The US House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, yesterday with a bipartisan majority.

Those who supported the bill say it will provide local law enforcement agencies with additional resources to investigate hate crimes motivated by race, ethnicity, gender, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability. It will also allow federal agencies the means to participate in local hate crimes cases when local agencies can't, or won't, investigate.

Two key provisions of the law expand federally protected categories to include sexual orientation and gender identity. Statistics show that one in six hate crimes are committed against an LGBT person, and that number is rising.

"The nation cannot wait any longer to protect all of its citizens," said Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign. "We should all be able to walk the streets without fear."

Hilary Shelton, director of the NAACP's Washington Bureau, rejected the idea, that many have put forth, that the law would limit free speech or religious rights. "Nothing in this bill prevents people from saying what's on their minds in the streets and certainly not from our nation's pulpits," she said.

Free speech is protected. You can say whatever you want about us, but you cannot physically attack us anymore. Even the ACLU, the enforcer of free speech, supports the bill.

Caroline Frederickson, director of the ACLU's Washington legislative office, pointed out that authorities will have the authority to investigate issues of speech only when the speech act in question is directly linked to the crime under investigation.

Still, and unbelievably so, GOP opposition to the Matthew Shepard Act centered on seeing hate crimes as modes of free expression protected by the Constitution.

Murder is not speech; it is not an expression. Brutality is not speech; it is not an expression. Just when you think the GOP cannot go any lower, you discover an entire sub-basement of their stupidity.

This one is for Matthew Shepard because we will never forget.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Make the Call


The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009, which is also called "The Matthew Shepard Act" will be up for a vote tomorrow in the U.S. House of Representatives. The bill would amend the federal hate crimes law to include to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

Right-wing-nuts are contacting congress at an alarming rate, calling the bill a "thought crimes bill" and flat out lying that this bill will somehow impede on their free speech rights.

It isn't about speech, it's about hate.

The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is asking all of us to take action by calling our representatives. It's easy to do; just call the U.S. Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and tell your representative's office:

* Hate crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are on the rise. One out of every six hate crimes is because of the victim’s sexual orientation.

* Hate crimes have more than one victim. They are intended to create an atmosphere of fear and terrorize entire communities.

* The Matthew Shepard Act targets only violent acts--not speech. It does not tell any clergy member what he or she can or can’t preach.


It's about violence, not speech. If you want to call me names, and tell me what you think of me? G'head. But you do not have the right to harm me, simply because I'm gay.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

It's Almost Done....Finally


Another important step.

The long awaited hate crimes legislation won approval from the House Judiciary Committee this past week; committee members backed the bill, 15-12, following a second day of debate, and now the bill is off to the House for a vote which may happen as early as next week.

Executive director of the NGLTF--National Gay & Lesbian Task Force--praised the committee vote, saying, "Laws ultimately reflect a nation's values, and this legislation, once passed, will send a strong message that America rejects all forms of hate violence, including bias-motivated crimes against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people...This committee vote marks the beginning of the end of a long-fought battle."

Amendments to the bill sought to include unborn children, military members and pregnant women in the measure, and another amendment pushed by the Repugs wanted to strip "gender identity" from the bill.

The amendments were voted down.

Democratic Representative Jerrold Nadler, one of the bill's original co-sponsors, was pleased the committee backed a measure to give law enforcement agencies more tools to fight hate crimes. "The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act is an essential step toward giving teeth to our local and national hate crime laws," he said. "That Americans would be singled out and victimized because of their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or religion is despicable. That our government currently lacks the ability to fully investigate such heinous crimes and prosecute the perpetrators is shameful."

Sexual orientation-inclusive hate crimes bills have languished in Congress since the Clinton presidency, but the drive to pass hate crimes Legislation gained momentum after Matthew Shepard's brutal murder in 1998. In his memory, versions of federal hate crimes legislation have sometimes been known as the Matthew Shepard Act.

I can think of a more fitting way to honor Matthew Shepard's life than to see this bill come into law.