Matthew Shepard's mother still mourns lost opportunities to battle hate crimes and promote a greater tolerance of gays in the 10 years since her 21-year-old son was beaten, tied to a wooden fence and left for dead in a frigid Wyoming pasture.
Though Congress has not passed a federal hate crime law, Judy Shepard is buoyed by enhanced punishments for crimes based on sexual orientation in 31 states and the District of Columbia.
“Ten years have gone by and not that much has changed, and I think that's just really disappointing,” said Shepard, who with her husband formed the Matthew Shepard Foundation to promote equality for the gay community.
Matthew Shepard died Oct. 12, 1998, five days after he was kidnapped, robbed and pistol-whipped by two men he met in a bar. Both men are serving life in prison for the murder, which police said was partly motivated by the fact Matthew was gay.
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Matthew's death after he was left in the cold with severe head injuries for 18 hours has produced an outpouring of films, books and plays, but it hasn't seemed to budge the rate of anti-gay violence.
FBI statistics show hate crimes motivated by anti-gay bias have remained at a stable level since Matthew's death. Both in 1998 and in 2006, the latest year for which data is available, roughly 1,200 such crimes were reported – about 16 percent of all reported hate crimes.
Wyoming is among five states – along with Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina – that don't have any type of hate crime law.