HRC Congratulates Judy Shepard on Receiving the Presidential Medal of Freedom

by HRC Staff

Mother of Matthew Shepard and founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors and its first executive director, Shepard is a fierce champion for LGBTQ+ rights and a member of HRC Board of Directors

WASHINGTON – Today, President Joe Biden will award Judy Shepard, founding president of the Matthew Shepard Foundation Board of Directors and its first executive director, with the Presidential Medal of Freedom–the nation’s highest civilian honor–for her unwavering advocacy for LGTBQ+ people and work to end hate. Since her son Matthew was killed in an anti-gay hate crime in 1998, Judy and her husband Dennis have dedicated their lives to social justice and championing their son’s legacy to secure critical rights and inspire people to embrace dignity and equality for all people.

Judy Shepard has been a champion for equality and President Biden’s choice to honor her with the Presidential Medal of Freedom is a testament to what she’s done to be a force of good in the world. A mother who turned unspeakable grief over the loss of her son into a decades-long fight against anti-LGBTQ+ hatred and violence, Judy continues to make a lasting impact in the lives of the LGBTQ+ community. It is because of her advocacy that the first federal hate crimes legislation became law and that countless life-saving trainings, resources and conversations about equality and acceptance are provided each year by the Matthew Shepard Foundation. We are honored that Judy is a member of the HRC family and know that her work to create a more inclusive and just world will only continue.

Kelley Robinson, President of the Human Rights Campaign

In the aftermath of Matthew Shepard’s murder in Laramie, Wyoming, Judy and Dennis joined with the family of James Byrd Jr., who was brutally murdered by white supremacists just months before Matthew’s death, to push for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The legislation expanded federal hate crimes law to consider a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. Working in lockstep with HRC, Congressional champions, and our partners, the Shepards’ advocacy was instrumental in the passage of this historic bill, which was signed into law by President Obama in 2009. Earlier this year, a jury in South Carolina issued the first ever conviction for a gender identity motivated violent crime under this landmark legislation in the murder trial of Dime Doe, a Black transgender woman.

Judy Shepard has served on the HRC Foundation Board of Directors since 2001.

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