Gay Pride Week: Judy Shepard Marches In Memory Of Her Son
As the station continues its coverage of Gay Pride Week, NY1’s Shazia Khan sits down with the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was violently murdered in 1998. Judy Shepard will serve as a grand marshal at this Sunday's Pride March.
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When 21-year-old gay college student Matthew Shepard was brutally killed in a small town in Wyoming almost 12 years ago, his mother, Judy Shepard, turned her grief into a national campaign against gay violence.
She championed last year's expansion of the 1968 federal hate crimes law that today extends protection for individuals attacked for their sexual orientation.
Now, Shepard will take her message on the road in a different sense, as a grand marshal of this year's Pride March down Fifth Avenue.
She says the passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which bears her son's name, is a point of not only celebration, but also of continued awareness and activism.
“This is just the beginning, because this is the building block for future gay rights legislation, so this is really a big deal,” Shepard said. “And this is why, one reason why I really wanted to come to the parade this year, is because I want to celebrate that success and remind everyone that we just have so much more work to do and this is a great jumping-off point.”
Shepard says while the new hate crime law does more to prosecute violence against the LGBT community, it doesn't prevent it. So her activism continues as she takes on the legalization of same sex marriage and other issues.
“I want to move forward to the other events where we can actually make a change, a positive change in people's lives that that takes affect right away,” said Shepard. “Job protection is crucial to me and "Don't Ask, Don't Tell.”
Her schedule is often full. Currently she's on a book tour for the paperback release of her memoir "The Meaning of Matthew." On the cover her son is a photo of her son, just months before he was murdered.
“It doesn't translate as well on the cover, but his eyes, he's present in those yes, he's in there,” she said. “I love this picture, and when I first saw it, I thought I'm not gonna share it with anybody. But it's him, it's who he is and it needs to be out there.”
So was the truth about her son, a driving motivation to write the book. Matthew battled depression and drug abuse after being raped as a teenager in Morocco, and contracted HIV towards the end of his short-lived life.
“We owed it to Matt to tell people about who he really was. Not something that no one else could attain or aspire to, but just a really regular human being with great qualities and flaws,” she said.