Matthew Shepard’s mother still mourns lost opportunities to battle hate crimes and promote a greater tolerance of gays in the 10 years since her 21-year-old son was beaten, tied to a wooden fence and left for dead in a frigid Wyoming pasture.
Though Congress has not passed a federal hate crime law, Judy Shepard is buoyed by enhanced punishments for crimes based on sexual orientation in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
“Ten years have gone by and not that much has changed, and I think that’s just really disappointing,” said Shepard, who with her husband formed the Matthew Shepard Foundation to promote equality for the gay community…
FBI statistics show hate crimes motivated by anti-gay bias have remained at a stable level since Matthew’s death. Both in 1998 and in 2006, the latest year for which data is available, roughly 1,200 such crimes were reported — about 16 percent of all reported hate crimes…
Shepard, meanwhile, travels away from her home in Casper about six months of the year for her work with the foundation. Despite legal and legislative obstacles for gays, she believes American society has made strides over the past 10 years in accepting the gay community.
“Socially, we’ve made really, really great progress in educating the general public about gay and lesbian issues, so I feel really good about that,” Shepard said.
Anyone who feels strongly about equal rights and justice hopes a new wind will sweep through Washington in November and January. I’m too cynical – I’m afraid I must say – to have that much confidence in Democrats over Republicans. I think they’re two sides of the same bigoted, cowardly coin.
I do think that maybe a strong enough effort to throw out all the existing lamebrains will keep the new crowd looking back over their shoulder and, perhaps – just perhaps – they’ll wonder if their new seats aren’t guaranteed.