by Thomas Cluderay
On a cold October night in 1998, just east of er. Shepard said that she continues to speak to groups across
Laramie, Wyo., two men tied Matthew Shepard to a the nation to raise enough awareness on the issue so that
fence, beat him and left him to die. Shepard was a gay stu- no one has to experience losing a child to hate as she did.
dent at the University of Wyoming, and many Ameri- “Hate is a learned behavior, Shepard said. Someone
cans considered his murder to be motivated by hate, has taught you over the years how to hate, who to hate and why.
Carrying on Shepard s legacy more than eight years lat- But we can take it back; we can change. What made us a great na-
er, mother Judy Shepard talked to a packed audience at the Uni- tion was taking care of each other, so why did we stop doing that?
versity of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Jan. 30, saying that the country needed
to be more accepting of the lesbian, gay,
bisexual and transgender community.
“I have legs to stand on be
cause hate for the gay community took
the life of my son,” Shepard said to more
than 400 students, professors and com
munity members who filled the seats
and aisles lining the Great Hall. “If we
think as a nation that hate is something
we don’t have to deal with on a daily ba
sis then we are just kidding ourselves.
It’s a problem we need to address.”
Event organizers such as
UNC-CH’s LGBTQ Office and the
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender
— Straight Alliance teamed with nearly Judy Shepard speaks to students in UNC-CHs Great
30 other University groups to pub-
iicize the event and to help pay for
Shepard’s speaker fee, which was do
nated in part to the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
The planning process began more than a year ago
when organizers were awarded a Carolina Parents Coun
cil grant which covered nearly two-thirds of the total cost,
said Terri Phoenix, assistant director of the LGBTQ Office.
“There is always a lot of planning that needs to hap
pen to bring a speaker of such national stature to campus,”
Phoenix said. “But I love Judy Shepard because she is an ally,
a mother who lost her son to hate and someone who talks
about the issue broadly enough that people understand how
education and understanding can minimize discrimination.”
Although she never intended to a professional speak-
Addressing the LGBT commu
nity, Shepard said that while society
needed to “take a giant leap of faith
forward” to unlearn decades of anti
gay rhetoric, gays and lesbians also
needed to increase their visibility.
“There is an extreme level of igno
rance in our society today,” Shepard
said. “So what are we going to do about
that? We have to tell our stories.”
“The problems facing the gay and
lesbian community today have been
faced by other minorities through
out history, they are not new issues,
but they only openly apply today
to gays and lesbians,” Shepard said.
Matthew Shepard’s murder took
place nearly a decade ago and more
than 1,500 miles from Chapel Hill-
But his mother’s presentation remind
ed audience members that it has only
been two years since a group of men
assaulted a gay UNC-CH student on East Franklin Street-
That assault mobilized student groups at UNC-CH
to hold demonstrations aimed at raising awareness to hate
crimes against the LGBT community. Organizers also peti
tioned the General Assembly to amend the state’s hate crime
law - the “Ethnic Intimidation Act” - to include sexual ori
entation as a protected category, said Taylor Brown, a UNC-
CH sophomore and co-chair of UNC-CH’s GLBT-SA-
The law remains unchanged, however, protecting
only victims who are attacked on the basis of “race, color, re
ligion, nationality or country of origin.” Tougher sentences