The Shepards, whose gay son Matthew was brutally murdered in 1998 because of his sexual orientation, were invited by Attorney General William Barr to give remarks at the department’s ceremony last week marking the 10th anniversary of the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Named in memory of their son and James Byrd Jr., a black man murdered by white supremacists in 1998, it expanded the definition of a hate crime to include acts motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
Unable to attend because of a travel conflict, the Shepards sent a powerful speech to be read on their behalf. “We find it interesting and hypocritical that [Barr] 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,” they said in their prepared remarks.
Matthew Shepard’s parents, exhibiting what President John F. Kennedy once described as “that most admirable of human virtues — courage,” forcefully noted the Trump administration’s abject failure to protect the rights and lives of transgender people. Only recently, Barr’s department had argued before the Supreme Court in favor of allowing gay and transgender individuals to be fired from their jobs because of who they are. Currently, LGBT people can be fired in 17 states simply because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.