What Does Judy Shepard Have to Show for Her Decade-Long Crusade?


The mother of a 21-year-old man bludgeoned to death while tied to a fence, Judy Shepard has done more to put a face on hate crimes legislation than any Gay Inc. organization ever could. And now she’s written a book about the terror and loss — that needs to be sent with a personalized note to every member of Congress.

Shepard, who makes some 50 speeches a year (at a price of up to $20,000), has long been advocating for hate crimes legislation to protect sexual and gender identity. Not that such a law would have saved her son Matthew.


In her new book The Meaning of Matthew: My Son’s Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed (read an excerpt here), Judy relives her son’s life up until that fateful early morning in 1998. From what we’ve seen, it’s a touching read. Deep down, we hope people can’t identify with it.

But the release of Judy’s book doesn’t quell the anger felt when remembering United States legislators have tried, and failed, to pass hate crimes protections five times since 1997, and continue to bow out because religious conservatives manage to spray their message that such a law would prohibit their right to advocate hatred. We’re on the cusp, again, and yet nothing feels certain.

Ms. Shepard is a trailblazer. A friend to the community. As impacted as the rest of us because of America’s remaining anti-gay sentiments. And while we wouldn’t expect any single woman to carry a movement, Judy is the type of ally we need: Identifiable, wholesome, and spirited. How many Shepards, and Sirdeander Walkers, will we need, then, to convince our representatives in Washington that discrimination is alive and well, and we deserve to be protected?