WDAY.com

WDAZ: Your Home Team

Published March 08, 2011, 08:14 PM

Activist Judy Shepard Continuing Equality Push Nearly 13 Years After Son's Hate Crime Death

Judy Shepard is a well known activist who gives lectures about gay issues more than a decade after her son was murdered for being gay. She spoke at UND Monday night and tonight sits down with WDAZ's Brady Mallory to talk about her son.

Judy Shepard is a well known activist who gives lectures about gay issues more than a decade after her son was murdered for being gay.

She spoke at UND Monday night and tonight sits down with WDAZ's Brady Mallory to talk about her son.

A lot has changed in the nearly 13 years after Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie, Wyoming. Only on WDAZ News, Judy Shepard tells us how that changed her and how she is changing equality in our country.

"Matt was my 21-year-old son. A college student at the University of Wyoming who happened to be gay. He was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in October of 1998 in Laramie Wyoming," Shepard said.

It was there that Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson offered Matthew Shepard a ride home from a bar and took him to a rural area, pistol-whipped and tortured him, leaving him to die tied to a fence. Shepard was found the next morning and died five days later because of severe brain stem damage and multiple head fractures.

"Since then, Matt's dad and I and his brother started a foundation in Matt's name. Our mission in general is to try to make life better for gay, lesbian and transgender population in general. If we hadn't lost Matt the way we did, I would've been the PFLAG mom baking the cookies, not the mom at the podium," Shepard said.

This mom has been at thousands of podiums, college campuses and equality marches, using her voice for gay, lesbian and transgender equality and speaking up for her son who was silenced for being gay.

"Educate, educate, educate. Bring understanding where you see hate and ignorance. Bring light where there is darkness. Bring freedom where there is fear. And begin to heal," Shepard said at her speech at UND Monday.

"We haven't managed to fix the problem yet. We've accomplished some things recently with the enactment of the federal hate crime bill in Matt's name. Just recently the repeal of Don't Ask Don't Tell. So we're moving along here at a pretty steady clip. We might get it done legislatively and legally, but we still have some work to do to get it done socially," Shepard said.

"There is a way to deal with grief. You can go down the road of anger and despair or you can try to make it better. We felt like we owed it to Matt to try to make it better. We all just would've gone crazy had we done nothing and we realized we had a national platform for a little while where people would listen to what we had to say about their kids. I sure didn't think 11, 12 years later I would still be doing this. It's been good for me. It's been my grief process I think."

"Time never heals things. It changes, maybe. We redirect what we think about. I don't think about what happened all those years ago, I think about how we can move forward so it doesn't happen again. My goal is to not only have no more Matt Shepards, but no more of those two young men who murdered Matt either," Shepard said.

Tags: