Tenth anniversary of gay murder spurs new campaign

Tony Grew March 31, 2008
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Erasing hate from schools, workplaces, and communities is the goal of a new campaign launched in America this week by the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

The foundation was created by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of their 21-year old son Matthew, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.

Matthew’s murder was a watershed moment in the perceptions of LGBT people in America.

Then-President Bill Clinton tried to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian people in the aftermath of his death, but ultimately was defeated by Congress.

Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, launched the new ‘Campaign to Erase Hate’ by asking the crowd of more than 500 people to raise themselves to the power of ten and join with her in helping the Foundation fulfil its mission of erasing hate.

The goal of the campaign is to equip individuals with the necessary tools to discuss and address hate in our society. These tools include personal webpages, resources on dealing with hateful speech and actions, monthly correspondence and most importantly, a way to invite ten others to join.

“We are starting a movement of people dedicated to erasing hate from our schools, workplaces, and communities,” said Mrs Shepard.

“For the last ten years, individuals have been raising themselves to do amazing things with no resources. What we are trying to do is give this great work a structure and create a community of individuals who are using their voices and talents to address these issues.”

The ‘Campaign to Erase Hate’ will utilise, a youth-designed website launched by the Foundation last year, to involve young people in the campaign. Plans include working with various social networking sites, such as Facebook and MySpace which are popular with young people.

“The philosophy of the campaign is to start with individuals in the community who can put a face on the impact of hate,” explained Mrs Shepard.

“Then, if those people engage ten of their friends who then engage ten of their friends, we will quickly reach our goal of changing the hearts and minds of one million people. Your voice is the most powerful tool in erasing hate.”

Earlier this month the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s Excellence in Media Award was presented to Mrs Shepard. She is one of the most prominent campaigners for federal hate crimes legislation to be passed in the US.

To join the campaign, visit click here.

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