25 YEAR REMEMBRANCE - President Joe Biden issued a statement today to recognize the 25th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Shepard.
“Twenty-five years ago today, Matthew Shepard lost his life to a brutal act of hate and violence that shocked our nation and the world,” Biden said in the statement. “The week prior, Matthew had been viciously attacked in a horrific anti-gay hate crime and left to die – simply for being himself.”
“Matthew’s tragic and senseless murder shook the conscience of the American people. And his courageous parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, turned Matthew’s memory into a movement, galvanizing millions of people to combat the scourge of anti-LGBTQI+ hate and violence in America.”
Shepard was killed in a horrific hate crime due to his sexuality on October 12, 1998 at the age of 21. His murder brought attention to hate crime legislation at both the state and federal levels. President Barack Obama signed into federal law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009.
In the statement, Biden described his work on the hate crimes law, which added sexual orientation, gender identity, and disability to federal hate crimes protections and expanded those protections for all the named classes.
“This legislation is a lasting tribute to Matthew, a testament to the relentless advocacy of Judy and Dennis, and an important step forward for our country,” Biden said.
But, Biden noted, violence against LGBTQ+ people has been on the rise.
“Today, as threats and violence targeting the LGBTQI+ community continue to rise, our work is far from finished. No American should face hate or violence for who they are or who they love. I once again call on Congress to send the Equality Act to my desk so that we can ensure LGBTQI+ Americans have full civil rights protections under our laws – because every American is worthy of dignity, acceptance, and respect.”
In June, a report from the Anti-Defamation League and GLAAD found that there had been more than 350 incidents of harassment, vandalism, and assault between June 2022 and April 2023, which it said was an increase over previous years due to increased anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric.
“Extremists, including elected officials, must be held accountable for inciting violence and using vile rhetoric against marginalized people who just want to live in safety and peace,” GLAAD President and CEO Sarah Kate Ellis said at the time. “Targeting people for who they are, or for their race and faith, is an attack on fundamental freedoms, and the health and well-being of all in our country.”
(Alex Bollinger has been working in LGBTQ media for over a decade and has a Masters degree from the Paris School of Economics. He lives in Paris with his partner. Follow @alexpbollinger on Twitter. This story was published in LGBTQ Nation.)