Sunday, October 05, 2008

Ten Years

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.

37 people had something to say:

Jo said...

First of all, what is the legal difference (in terms of punishment) between murder and a hate crime? Or should I be asking about the difference between murder and murder/hate crime?

In other words, what will passing this legislation accomplish in practical terms?

I hate to appear so pessimistic, but erasing hate is not something that's going to be happening anytime soon, unfortunately.

With any luck, though, we may be able to reduce it now and eventually obliterate it.

I really can't see how anyone in their right mind could possibly vote for McCain, but then it's inconceivable to me that McCain could possibly be even in the running for president.

Bea said...

I'm not a political person, but I just cannot believe what I'm reading here. They do make differences in judgement whether the victim is gay or not?

Sometimes I think the offence against gay men and lesbian women is a manly problem. When one of our customers at work published his marriage with his male partner, I never heard anything negative from females, but feeled refusal from males. No, no one really said that in clear, but "the tone makes the music". Personally, I like this man very much. We have the same hobbies. He is a creative person, a painter and photographer in his free time. My hobbies, too. Our business meetings tend to take more time as I spend for other business customers because we often drift to private issues like painting or so. Well, I like my visits there :-)

In everyday life, I like people who are positive, who tend to see the bright side of life. People who don't grudge others and don't try to bring others down in any way. People who I can laugh with, who stay with me in bad times. And I don't care whether they are red or black or white or gay or christians or buddhists or muslims or whatever.
When I was a little child my grandfather told me: "there are good ones and bad ones and you will find both of them everywhere".

Law should not make differences in sex, religion or birth.
I'm so glad that these rules are a statement of the basic constitutional law of my country.
It states: "all people are equal"

Teyani said...

thank you for this well written story of the events regarding Matthew's death and the hate crimes legislation.
Politics... and politicians... one can definitely tell who is who by their actions.

Bells said...

thanks for this post. It's so important to keep on remembering.

Norma said...

I have not forgotten. I am stunned for you to tell me it's been 10 years, though. Seems like only a horrible yesterday. Thanks for this post, Dave.

turtlegirl76 said...

I'm with Norma. I cannot believe 10 years have passed. May we never forget. And hopefully the legislation will pass with installment of a new regime.

lexa said...

I remember that -- ten years already?!?!

Hate crimes are so disturbing. (Any murder is, but there's just something else about hate crimes.) I remember several years ago in Texas maybe (don't get mad if I'm wrong) some white guys tied a black man to the back of their vehicle and dragged him to death. I was horrified that anyone could do that to another person. Stuff people wouldn't do to an animal, and they do it to people just because they're "different". It's terrible.

(Quick look -- Jasper, Texas, 1998 I'm guessing since 1999 was when one of the men was sentenced to death. They dragged the man for three miles on a logging road.)

Jean said...

Any violent crime is a tragedy and a victim, whether man woman or child and regardless of what their orientation may be - we are all human beings and my heart goes out to this man's family and their tragic loss. I have looked at these scarves before and they are really beautiful, I shall put one of them on my to do list.

Monika said...

I've heard about Matthew before, but did not realize, that it was not that long ago. I'm glad his memory is kept alive in many ways. October 6th is my son's David's birthday, and October 7th my husbands birthday, although we celebrate life those two days, it's good to be reminded of those who's lifes were taken from them. Thanks for this post, Dave.

Pat said...

Thank you for a thoughtful, caring post, Dave~

Kim said...

How disturbing that this tragedy had to occur for us legislate to do the right thing. The detail behind that attack is heart wrenching and I find myself sickened at what some are capable.

Don't forget to cast your vote - constituents have a voice.

Chris said...

What Matthew suffered is unforgivable. So too is the fate of the Matthew Shephard Act. Thank you for posting this.

KnitNana said...

I hadn't forgotten, but the date wasn't in my mind. I'm so glad you wrote this. And bless, Myrna for her good spirit and generosity!

I'll be thinking of Matthew today and tonight.

A well-written piece. And a documentation of just another reason why this country has had "enough." It's time to move forward...and improve the lives of all of us.
(((((hugs)))))

Cynthia said...

I remember the horror of reading about this crime .... and so many others like it. I can't understand with any part of my being to have such a sadistic hatred towards any other person on this earth and yet, it happens everyday everywhere in this world. At what point do we get it? And when will politicians start being an example of what they supposedly espouse instead of always looking out for the vote and their political careers. Love is an action word.

Thanks for the post Dave and for the scarves - I am going to knit them up for Ed (not gay but certainly has experienced bigotry due to the colour of his skin).

gilraen said...

Dave in my view all murder is about hate, an intrinsic hatred of the sancity of life. I was unaware of Matthew's sad story, being as I am from Northern Ireland, but it repulses me none-the-less.

I am very biased from an outsider's perspective re the Republican administration, it too repulses me, and no more than when they refuse to treat all 'children' as one..........we are all equal, it is our actions towards others that make us more!

Rest in Peace Matthew you have gone to a much better place.

fuzzynoodleknits said...

Thank you for reminding us of this milestone...and I don't think this is a political issue, it's a Human Rights issue. How can we "police" other countries Human Rights atrocities when we are in denial of our own?

Caryn

Carrie K said...

It was such a horrible pointless tragedy Matthew Shepherd suffered. And for what? Ignorant miserable useless insecure hateful ......okay, words are actually failing me here.

I don't know how effective hate crime additional charges would be, but circumstances such as his should definitely be charged as murder in the first degree.

Kyle Kunnecke said...

thank you for the link and for remembering - I appreciate the way you are honoring Matthew's life - we can never forget...

Marlene said...

The world becomes a better place when we look for the similarities we share with our neighbour, and love them for it, rather than seeing only the differences and, fearing those differences, act out in hate.

Emma said...

Thanks for this post. It does seem like time has passed so quickly since then--it's amazing.

Mary Lou said...

Thanks for this well written reminder.

Valerie said...

The death of an innocent person is not political. It is simply wrong.

Thanks for posting and remembering. Let's hope for change.

Opal said...

Yet another reason for me to not vote for McCain...

I think it was very important that you brought this up. We do need to remember and people do need to be made aware of McCain's stance on this issue.

Debi said...

But Dave, I'm very sad to say, I fear many people have forgotten.

Thank you for posting this reminder and McCain's stance on this.

CynCyn said...

One of my favorite professors had a saying "the person is political." and I'm not sure I really understood it until a few years ago. I know most of our blogs are "knitting" blogs, but they're personal blogs too. We get to know who you are, your sense of humor, your color preferences... and whatever else you want to tell us. I hope you continue to advocate!!

Marjorie said...

Thank you for the post. To me it seems as if the Stonewall was just yesterday, and for a while I thought things were getting better. But the Matthew Shepard case and the lack of legislation on hate crimes based on sexual orientation makes it clear that the US has a long way to go to ensure justice for all.

crazyframes said...

Thank you for this post. It is a sad and somber reminder of how many things get shoved under the rug and tucked behind closed doors, especially by the government, especially when there aren't huge dollar signs attached to the issue.

lilypily said...

As an Australian, I can only watch the US presidential campaign with interest. Thank you for this post. It confirms my instincts about the candidates. You write very well.

Robin said...

What happened to Matthew was a senseless, horrible, ugly, and tragic act. We live in Fort Collins and remember well the prayer vigils for him while he was in the hospital here and the love and compassion that flowed from our community to his family. His murder revealed the evil and hatred that can fill human hearts. Dave, there is Someone who can give us a new heart, free of bitterness, hate, prejudice and murder. His name is Jesus Christ and He loved Matthew and He loves you and wants to help with the healing.

aquaknits said...

Great post, I cannot believe it has been 10yrs. I will never understand how people can be against legislations that only serve to better help and protect, and I'm ashamed to say that 10 years later, I don't know how much enlightenment has really happened either. Thanks for the great patterns.

BadCatDesigns said...

We should all remember (and we should all vote.) Thank you for the post. It is hard to think that ten years have passed...and how little has really changed.

jessie said...

Thank you for that. The memory of that still makes me sick to my stomach, but I guess it's important not to forget.

├ůsa said...

I´m so sorry. I hope a lot of people is reading the story about Matthew and not forget the tragedy.

Karen said...

Just happened by. I didn't realize it had been 10 years; I certainly have not forgotten. One hope that our government officials will get it together and find ways to protect us all - we are all one. Thanks for a well written and thoughtful piece.

Knit on!

Tallguy said...

It appears that two men were convicted for the murder, and three others for assisting in disposing of evidence. Doesn't seem quite fair.

But when were we ever promised that life would be fair.

Jackie said...

If my mind was not already made up, this would have sealed the deal. I don't understand how someone could vote against something like this???

guiltypleasures said...

The story about Matthew just breaks my heart. How could anyone vote against this Act? If McCain wins (not that I think he will), I'll have to move to Canada.