Statement from HRC President on 25 Years Since the Passing of Matthew Shepard

by HRC Staff

"We honor his legacy by working toward a better future–one where everyone can live their authentic selves without fear or harm."

Washington – Today, Oct. 12, 2023, marks 25 years since the passing of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year old University of Wyoming student who was brutally attacked, tortured and left to die while tied to a fence outside Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew’s death exposed the nation to the cruelty and dangers faced by LGTBQ+ people across the country, driving increased conversations on the LGTBQ+ experience and spurring legislative action. In 2009, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which expanded federal hate crimes law to consider a person’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.

HRC today also released a video featuring Judy and Dennis Shepard sharing some words of support for the LGTBQ+ community.

HRC President Kelley Robinson issued the following statement today to honor the life of Matthew Shepard:

“We know that Matthew Shepard, like so many other LGTBQ+ youth whose lives were taken too soon, lived a life full of joy, passion, and a love for others. We honor his legacy by working toward a better future–one where everyone can live their authentic selves without fear or harm.
“That’s why it is heartbreaking–and infuriating–to know that 25 years after Matthew’s death, LGTBQ+ Americans are living under a state of emergency. A record number of anti-LGBTQ+ bills were signed into law this year. Transgender people, especially Black transgender women, are being murdered at alarming rates. Libraries, hospitals, and coffee shops that serve and celebrate LGBTQ+ people are being subject to violent threats. Hateful rhetoric is spewed by political commentators, local legislators, and Republican presidential candidates. It’s no surprise then that hate crimes–like the one that took Matthew Shepard’s life–are on the rise, targeting not just our LGTBQ+ family, but also BIPOC communities and Jewish people.
“We cannot, and we will not, accept this as the new normal. Instead, I look for inspiration from Judy and Dennis Shepard, who have made it their life’s work since their son’s death, through the Matthew Shepard Foundation, to build a better, more inclusive, more accepting world for all. The onus is on all of us to follow their lead–to speak up against hate, to push our elected leaders to deliver change, and to never back down. We cannot rest until there are no more Matthew Shepards, or Sakia Gunns, or Dime Does, or O’Shae Sibleys, or Pulse nightclubs, or Club Qs. That is our work. And that is our promise.”

Judy and Dennis Shepard founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation following Matthew’s death with the goals of helping others embrace the dignity of all and address hate in their communities. Judy Shepard has served on the HRC Foundation Board of Directors since 2001.

The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people. HRC envisions a world where LGBTQ+ people are embraced as full members of society at home, at work and in every community.

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