It has been 10 years since the nation was shocked by the brutal murder of Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard. And a decade later, too little has been to prevent future attacks on LGBT people.
PFLAG has joined with the Progressive Media Project to call attention to the unacceptable lack of progress on hate crimes legislation since Shepard's death. In a new op-ed, appearing in small and large papers - including the Raleigh News & Observer, The Virginian Pilot, Alaska Daily News and Fresno Bee - we point out that, in the years since lawmakers vowed 'never again,' attacks on the LGBT community, unfortunately, happen again and again.
Here's an excerpt from PFLAG's Progressive op-ed, now appearing in papers across the country:
In the days and weeks immediately after Shepard's death, numerous elected leaders promised swift action to pass federal hate crimes legislation that would protect LGBT Americans.
Ten years later, the bill, which bears Shepard's name, has never become law. The need for the law is as urgent now as it was in 1998. Hate crimes against the LGBT community increased 24 percent nationwide last year, according to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs. Especially startling increases occurred in Michigan (up 207 percent), Minnesota (up 135 percent) and even in Los Angeles, which saw a 100 percent increase in anti-gay violence in 2007.
Anti-gay murders doubled, the coalition reported.
In California, student Lawrence King was gunned down in his school by a classmate who believed King was gay.
In Colorado, Angie Zapata, a young transgender woman, was attacked and killed while on a date.
In South Carolina, Sean Kennedy was viciously beaten outside a local gay bar, and later died of his injuries.
And right now, in the nation's capital, the gay community is on heightened alert after at least three anti-gay attacks in neighborhoods generally considered safe for LGBT Washingtonians.
Those numbers, and those stories, should shock Americans and spur them to take action.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays recently partnered with Sean Kennedy's mother to launch a petition calling on lawmakers to pass, and President Bush to sign, the Matthew Shepard Act.
To read the full op-ed, click here.