Ahead of a much-anticipated vote in the Senate, Judy Shepard, whose homosexual son was beaten to death in 1998, talks to NOW about why she believes the government is "giving permission" for people to harass homosexuals. The Matthew Shepard Act, which would expand the coverage of federal hate crimes to include violent attacks against homosexuals, cleared the House in March. If the Senate approves the measure, President Bush is expected to veto the bill. In a web-exclusive audio interview, Shepard talks to Senior Correspondent Maria Hinojosa about the need for expanding the law, and her son's lasting legacy.
"It's very disheartening when the leader of our nation goes on national TV and says that gay people aren't deserving of every equality everyone else [has]."
"I'm very disappointed and disillusioned that none of our candidates will step forward and take a stand on gay issues. I know Dennis Kucinich does. No one else seems to have the chutzpah to take a stand when they need to."
"No one really cares that they [homosexuals] are not equal to everybody else. Well the America I grew up believing in says that everyone is equal under the law."
She [Mary Cheney, the Vice President's daughter] was an out, vocal, lesbian before the campaigns and she just disappeared. She had such an opportunity to make a difference as did Mr. and Mrs. Cheney. They actually in my opinion made things worse ... they sent the message that they were just embarrassed or even ashamed.
"We have a very sketchy policy against bullies —especially in our school systems —that doesn't work."
"People who watch and do nothing about it —they need to be addressed as well. There's no such thing as an innocent bystander."
About Judy Shepard
In October 1998, Judy and Dennis Shepards' 21 year-old son, Matthew, was murdered in Wyoming. Because the crime was connected to Matthew's homosexuality, his high-profile death became a rallying point for proponents of tougher hate crimes legislation.
Determined to prevent others from suffering their son's fate, Judy and Dennis decided to turn their grief into action and established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on Matthew's legacy.
Judy Shepard, who is Executive Director of the foundation, says it is "dedicated to working toward the causes championed by Matthew during his life: social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people."
Since her son's death Shepard has spoken to over one million young people on issues related to diversity.
Matthew Shepard Foundation