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Matthew Shepard’s parents deliver scathing put-down of Trump administration for pretending to honour their son

Nick Duffy October 17, 2019
Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard

Dennis and Judy Shepard, parents of Matthew Shepard (Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty)

The parents of murdered gay man Matthew Shepard snubbed a Trump administration ceremony in his honour, accusing the GOP-led Department of Justice of exploiting his memory.

A ceremony was held at the Department of Justice on Thursday to mark ten years since the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a law signed by president Obama that extended federal hate crime laws to cover LGBT+ people.

The law is partly named in memory of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered in Wyoming in 1998 in a homophobic attack that saw his killers escape hate crime charges.

Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, skipped the ceremony, and angrily denounced the Trump administration’s attempt to take advantage of their son’s memory while fighting at the Supreme Court against protections for LGBT+ employees.

Parents of Matthew Shepard blast ‘hypocritical’ attorney general William Barr.

In a letter, the couple denounced attorney general William Barr, writing: “We find it interesting and hypocritical that he would invite us to this event commemorating a hate crime law named after our son and Mr Byrd, while, at the same time, asking the Supreme Court to allow the legalised firing of transgender employees.”

In 2008, President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, alongside Dennis Shepard and Judy Shepard.
In 2008, President Barack Obama delivered remarks on the enactment of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, alongside Dennis Shepard and Judy Shepard. (Win McNamee/Getty Images))

They continued: “Mr Barr, you cannot have it both ways.

“If you believe that employers should have the right to terminate transgender employees, just because they are transgender, then you believe they are lesser than and not worthy of protection.”

“If so, you need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice that are billed as celebrating the law that protects these same individuals from hate crimes. Either you believe in equality for all or you don’t.

“We do not honour our son by kowtowing to hypocrisy.”

Attorney general Barr also did not attend the event at the Department of Justice.

Judy and Dennis Shepard thanks federal employees for fighting ‘uphill battle’ against Trump administration.

The Shepards paid tribute to employees within the Department of Justice who “truly believe in protecting all Americans from injustice”, adding: “We understand how frustrating and thankless it is when you are fighting an uphill battle under today’s political climate and with little or no support or assistance from the administration.”

The couple added: “We don’t want to see another incident or life lost as we lost Matt. Any loss of life, any loss of a job, any loss of desire to work towards fulfilling a person’s dreams and goals because of hate related words or actions is a loss to the local community where that person lives, a loss to the state where that person lives, and a loss to this country.

“We look forward to a re-focus on the causes of hate crimes and the reduction of hate crime incidents as America changes direction and moves forward towards a more equal and just country.”

More: department of justice, DoJ, Matthew Shepard, William Barr

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