October 7, 2013 by Maureen McCarty, HRC Senior Digital Strategist Shortly after midnight on October 7, 1998, Matthew Shepard was attacked in a brutal hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming. Just five days later, on October 12 in Colorado, Matthew, who was just 21-years-old, died with his family by his side.
After more than a decade of advocacy, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal law protecting LGBT individuals from against biased crimes, was signed into law by President Barack Obama.
With fifteen years between us and that brutal evening, we’re still reminded daily of the work that remains in the fight to end bigotry and hate: From the gay Mississippi college student who struggles to live as his open and authentic self to a son who is disowned by his mother after coming out to the proliferation of negative messages about being LGBT that teenagers hear from our elected leaders.
It is up to us all – LGBT and allied – to take up the mantle of the movement born in the dark hours following Matthew’s death, and to continue the fight to bring light and love to all corners of America.