The parents of murdered gay student Matthew Shepard have slammed the Trump administration for “hypocrisy” on LGBTIQ rights.
Judy and Dennis Shepard, invited to a Justice Department ceremony this month by US Attorney-General William Barr.
To mark the 10th anniversary of a hate crime law named after Shepard and James Byrd Jr, a black man also murdered.
But Shepard’s parents didn’t attend. Instead they slammed Barr and the Trump administration for arguing in an ongoing Supreme Court case that employers can legally discriminate against transgender workers.
The Shepards made their views known in a letter read out at the ceremony.
“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 legalized firing of transgender employees.
“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.
“[In future] you need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice that are billed as celebrating a law that protects these same individuals from hate crimes.”
“Either you believe in equality for all or you don’t. We do not honor our son by kowtowing to hypocrisy.”
The letter, read out by a director from the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which the Shepards founded after their son’s death.
Dennis Shepard told USA Today the decision to speak out was “challenging”.
However, he said, if they attended the ceremony it “would be nothing more than a photo-op for Barr … and, ultimately, the administration” to falsely claim support for the LGBTIQ community.
“The larger message is clear,” he said.
“If American citizens do not speak out loud and clear, and object about the obliteration of their civil rights and equal rights, those rights will disappear quickly.”
Matthew Shepard murdered in rural Wyoming in 1998
Twenty-one years ago, Matthew Shepard, brutally beaten and left to die in a vicious hate crime in rural Wyoming.
Shepard’s attackers left him tied to a fence for 18 hours until a passer-by discovered him. Matthew Shepard died five days later in hospital on October 12.
His tragic death would become a symbol of anti-gay violence, drawing national outrage. After his death, his parents went on to establish the Matthew Shepard Foundation to fight for LGBTIQ equality.
In 2009, Matthew’s name was on US legislation making it a federal crime to assault someone because of their sexuality or gender identity.
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