Judy Shepard knows the definition of a hate crime. Her son, Matthew, was killed ten years ago this October, and since his universally recognized death, Judy Shepard has become the torch bearer of a national movement to recognize crimes against the gay community for what they are. As an advocate for essential human rights, Judy Shepard has become more than just the mother of a slain gay son, she has become the voice of a frustrated cross-section of Americans who oppose discrimination based on sexual orientation and who support a continued push for legislation that would prosecute crimes against gays and lesbians as other bias motivated crimes are prosecuted.
Over the weekend, Dennis and Judy Shepard hosted the annual gala of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, a fundraising dinner to launch a clever new anti-hate campaign. The Campaign to Erase Hate asked each of the five hundred attendees to spread the message to ten of their friends who would then spread the message to ten more.
Judy Shepard promises the movement will raise each individual supporter to the power of ten:
We are starting a movement of people dedicated to erasing hate from our schools, workplaces, and communities. For the last ten years, individuals have been raising themselves to do amazing things with no resources. What we are trying to do is give this great work a structure and create a community of individuals who are using their voices and talents to address these issues.A year ago, the Matthew Shepard Act (also known as the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 or H.R. 1592) passed the U.S. House of Representatives with few amendments, but has since stalled. Judy Shepard remains positive that H.R. 1592 will be picked up and passed by the 2009 Congress--with a new administration in the White House.
The annual Shepard gala comes on the heals of the shooting of a fifteen-year-old boy in Ventura County, California. The fourteen-year-old boy who shot him, reportedly because his sexual identity was being threatened by the fifteen-year-old wearing nail polish and high heels, is being held for murder as an adult.
For more information on the Campaign to Erase Hate, please visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation website to read about and join the anti-hate movement.