The mother and father of hate crime victim Matthew Shepard gave their full blessing to Joe Biden at the Democratic National Convention on Tuesday night (August 18).
Judy and Dennis Shepard joined several of Biden’s former rivals, including Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar, in wholeheartedly pledging their support for Biden, announcing their state’s votes and helping to formally nominate the Democrat.
Speaking from their home in Wyoming, the couple praised Biden’s efforts in helping to extend federal protections to LGBT+ people like their late son.
“After our son’s death in Wyoming, Joe Biden helped pass the legislation to protect LGBTQ Americans from hate crimes,” Dennis Shepard said during the Democratic National Convention roll call.
“He understands more than most our grief over Matt’s death. But we see in Joe so much of what made Matt’s life special: his commitment to equality, his passion for social justice, and his boundless compassion for others.”
The votes announced by the Shepards — who were joined in the roll call by Indiana’s Pete Buttigieg, gay Maine state rep Craig Hickman and representatives for the other 53 states and territories — mean that Biden is now the official Democratic nominee, and Kamala Harris the vice presidential nominee.
Matthew Shephard murdered at 21.
Matthew Shepard was a 21-year-old gay college student who was beaten, tortured and left to die in an anti-gay hate crime in 1998. His killers claimed that they had only intended to rob him but were moved to murder when Shepard made sexual advances towards them.
The case became one of the most prominent examples of the “gay panic” defence being used in an attempt to justify a homophobic hate crime, and it sparked a campaign to extend protections towards the LGBT+ community.
The controversial legal defence is unfortunately still permitted in the majority of US states but is rarely used.
In 2009 the Obama-Biden administration passed federal hate crime laws covering LGBT+ people, and named it the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
When the Trump administration attempted to mark the ten-year anniversary of the act’s passage, Judy and Dennis Shepard notably skipped the ceremony.
They angrily denounced Trump’s attempt to take advantage of their son’s memory while fighting at the Supreme Court against protections for LGBT+ employees.
“We find it interesting and hypocritical that he would invite us to this event commemorating a hate crime law named after our son and Mr Byrd, while, at the same time, asking the Supreme Court to allow the legalised firing of transgender employees,” the couple said in a letter condemning attorney general William Barr.
They concluded the scathing letter: “We do not honour our son by kowtowing to hypocrisy.”
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