The Social Impact of Matthew Shepard 20 Years After His Murder

The Social Impact of Matthew Shepard 20 Years After His Murder

Max Rodriguez

Matthew Shepard was an active student with the LGBT Student Alliance at the University of Wyoming, he was only 21 years old when two men cut his life short over his sexual orientation.

The tragic story of Shepard changed the course of the country and its treatment of the LGBTQ community. News reports from 1998 said Shepard left a bar in Wyoming with two men who would later tie Shepard onto a fence and beat him severely, and left to die outside. He succumb to his injuries a few days later at a local hospital.

But to Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, their son’s death still has no explanation other than hate.

Dennis Shepard said, “It was open season, whatever happened to him it was no big deal, just another gay.”

The parents did not mourn in silence, in 2009 Judy Shepard published, “The Meaning of Matthew”, a biography of her son, the world he knew and how it was taken from him.

Judy Shepard said, “Life to Matt was about new experiences, new people he didn’t understand why anyone would feel the necessity to categorize or stereotype people.”

Shortly after the book was published, President Barack Obama signed into law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act.

The act expands federal hate crime law to include crimes against perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability.

Judy Shepard said, “A lot of good things have happened, but not because of us, they have happened because of everybody else who has been involved in the movement and certainly the Obama Administration and everybody who was part of that was the leader, all the way.”

However, these parents said the work to achieve acceptance and equality in the country will continue, Dennis Shepard said the young generation needs to carry on with the fight against hate.

“Look at the changes that have been made since the horrible tragedy at Parkland,” Dennis Shepard said. “The young people have gotten involved and realized they have some power and they are using it to make social change.”

The Shepard family will share their son’s story with the community on Saturday. Judy Shepard will host a book signing event at Just Fabulous in Palm Springs, here are the details.