Remembering Matthew: Love Conquers Hate
October 12, 2012 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Associate Director of Digital Media
On October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard was singled out for being gay and brutally attacked near Laramie, Wyoming. Six days later Matthew died from the injuries sustained that horrific night.
At the time no protections existed to allow the Department of Justice to assist in prosecuting acts of violence in which a victim is chosen because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation. Because of this, the Laramie Police department was forced to furlough officers due to the extraordinary expense of the investigation and media attention.
Matthew’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, courageously took up the mantle to prevent future tragedies and together galvanized a community to protect Americans from bias-motivated violence.
After a decade of advocacy work, the U.S. Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crime Prevention Act, the first federal civil rights law to explicitly protect LGBT Americans. President Obama signed it into law on Oct. 28, 2009.
We honor Matthew’s memory -- and all who have suffered from hatred -- by remembering the importance of conquering hate with love and compassion.
Tackling homophobia and transphobia begins with ending anti-LGBT hate that not only makes LGBT people feel they aren’t worth the same dignity as other Americans, but also perpetuates the connotation that LGBT people are somehow less than.
The path to protecting our community, particularly youth, continues. LGBT youth are twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school, and 4 in 10 LGBT youth say the community in which they live is not accepting of LGBT people.
Calling out anti-LGBT incidents is one of the best ways you can help to advance equality and promote a safer environment for our community.
Visit HRC’s Call It Out Project to learn more and get involved.
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