Fifteen years after learning her son was tortured and killed for being gay, Judy Shepard says she was overcome with joy after hearing the landmark SCOTUS decisions that will pave the way for marriage equality this morning.
No stranger to the painstakingly slow political process, Judy spent years pushing the Matthew Shepard Act through Congress after her son was lynched in 1998, and became a champion for LGBT rights when the bill was signed by President Obama in 2009, providing extra legal protection for LGBT people victimized by hate crimes.
Today, Judy told People that she debated same-sex marriage with her son just months before his murder, and knew he would have been excited to hear the news:
“There had been a [news] story about same-sex marriage and he was debating it with me. He asked me if I thought gay couples would ever be allowed to get married and he wasn’t at all optimistic it would happen. He was in a mindset of, ‘People are never going to accept us or understand us.’ It was a much different world then. There was activism happening, yes. And we were moving on from the AIDS pandemic. But ignorance and the fear out there was its own pandemic. For Matthew, it was a very secret world still.
I told him I didn’t think I would see it in my lifetime, but he probably would in his. It’s so sad – and ironic – that it turned out the other way.
I wish he’d been here to see it. This case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true.”
Matthew would have been 36 years old this year.