Thirteen years ago today, a young man named Matthew Shepard was tortured, robbed, and abandoned outside of Laramie, Wyoming because he was gay. After his death five days later, his mother Judy began an advocacy journey which would eventually bring increased federal protections to citizens across the country.
Soon after her son’s murder, Judy and her husband created The Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization which, founded on “principles of understanding, compassion, and acceptance,” seeks to “encourage respect for human dignity and difference by raising awareness, opening dialogues, and promoting positive change.”
Judy became focused on launching a federal hate crime law which would grant federal protection to LGBT people, women, and people with disabilities. Her dedication and message motivated thousands, and after more than a decade of activism President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard/ James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in 2009. Thanks to the work of Judy Shepard, local activists, and LGBT equal rights organizations, our government now includes sexual orientation, gender and gender identity in the federal definition of violent hate crimes.
In addition to her continued involvement in LGBT issues, Judy has published a book entitled “The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed.” She continues to advocate for safe schools and communities for everyone, regardless of their characteristics, and reminds youth to “be true to yourselves…your friends and family are a source of support.”
Take Action: Keep Matthew Shepard’s memory alive and honor his mother Judy’s commitment to providing a safe world for everyone, by working with your local law enforcement agency to effectively carry out the new federal hate crimes law.