I usually try to stick to my knitting here, as I view this space as a little corner of my world that is safe and free from all the stresses of everyday life. This week, though, I am reminded again of just how unsafe and unfree life really is out there in the real world..
This upcoming week marks the 10th anniversary of the murder of Matthew Wayne Shepard. Matthew was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die near Laramie on the night of October 6 – October 7, 1998. He died from severe head injuries at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, on October 12, 1998.
Matthew suffered a fracture from the back of his head to the front of his right ear. He had severe brain stem damage, which affected his body's ability to regulate heart rate, body temperature and other vital signs. There were also about a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. His injuries were deemed too severe for doctors to operate. He never regained consciousness and remained on full life support.
The disturbing and brutal nature of Matthew Shepard's murder prompted calls for new legislation addressing hate crime, urged particularly by those who believed that Shepard was targeted on the basis of his sexual orientation. Under current United States federal law and Wyoming state law, crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation are not prosecutable as hate crimes.
The Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007 or LLEHCPA), HR 1592 was a proposed federal bill that would expand the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
The bill passed the Senate on September 27, 2007, as an amendment to the Defense Reauthorization bill. The cloture vote was 60 to 39 in favor. The amendment was then approved by voice vote. President Bush indicated he may veto the DoD authorization bill if it reaches his desk with the hate crimes legislation attached. Ultimately, the amendment was dropped by the Democratic leadership because of opposition from antiwar Democrats, conservative groups, and President George W. Bush.
Senators Barack Obama and Joe Biden voted in favor of the legislation; Senator John McCain did not vote. However, in an interview with The Washington Blade regarding the Matthew Shepard Act, Senator McCain stated, "I have voted against the proposal several times".
The Campaign to Erase Hate is a program of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. It models the principles that were core to the beliefs and aspirations of Matthew Shepard. For more information, please visit the Matthew Shepard Foundation and Matthew's Place.
This is a knitting blog and not a place for politics, but I would like to again thank Myrna Stahman for caring enough to mark Matthew's death by designing two scarf patterns and sharing them with us.
Matthew, we have not forgotten.