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   "The opportunity to be threatened, humiliated and to live in fear of being beaten to death is the only 'special right' our culture bestows on homosexuals."   
- Diane Carman, Denver Post

 Matthew Shepard Online Resources Archive
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November 1, 1998

Contact: John Aravosis, 202/328-5707,

Latest in series of anti-gay threats spread via Internet

Washington, DC - Someone at New York University (NYU) posted a message to a Matthew Shepard Web site yesterday threatening to "hurt any fag or dyke" holding vigils, marches or demonstrations honoring the slain University of Wyoming student. This incident is the latest in a series of online anti-gay attacks following Shepard's death. Recent information suggests NYU may not consider this threatened hate crime important enough to investigate further.

The message was posted Saturday, October 31 at 3:56 PM PST, on a bulletin board of the Matthew Shepard Online Resources Web site - the board was created to assist in organizing vigils in Shepard's name. Yesterday's message from Christ T. N. (i.e., "Christian") read as follows:

"Posted by IP: Chris T. N. on October 31, 1998 at 15:56:06: This message is vigil related so please post it. I am WARNING all homos that if you try to hold a vigil or march or demonstration in my city you will be met with brutal ass-kicking force. I will personally hurt any fag or dyke who comes to force their perverted views on us. After tuesday's election and great wins for the great Republican party, we will pass laws to outlaw homo "vigils" nationwide. Your time is up fags!"

This post can still be viewed at

The series of numbers at the top of the message (the IP address) trace it to someone accessing the Internet from the Academic Computing Facility at New York University. According to NYU's Web site, access to the Web is made available to the students, faculty and eligible staff of NYU. It is believed that the university can likely use their computers to identify the specific author of the message.

This is the latest in a series of anti-gay hate messages posted to the Shepard site. Two previous postings read:

"Posted by str8 on October 22, 1998 at 12:04:16:
This is sick perverted behavior! All fags and lesbians will be punished in this country. If not by the great Republican Congress or by the Courts of law, then surely God will punish them. In the meantime I will do my part to punish with my fist and the heel of my boot!!"

Posted by someone on October 20:
"It's not too late to try and be STRAIGHT. Give up your homo lifestyle or more fags will die and lesbians raped and impregnated and forced to bear straight children. This is war against you homo perverts!!"

The anti-gay hate on the Shepard site has not occurred in a vacuum. Just yesterday, the Associated Press reported that two students at Holy Cross college in Worcester, Massachusetts are facing disciplinary proceedings for sending anti-gay email messages to all 2,200 students at the college. In addition, a number of gay organizations made news a few weeks ago after receiving threatening emails shortly after Shepard was found brutally beaten.

"Anti-gay hate isn't just a small-town thing," said John Aravosis, who runs the Matthew Shepard Online Resources Web site. "Whether it's from drop-outs in Wyoming, or well-off kids at a Catholic college or big city university, hate knows no class," he added.

"These unfortunate incidents show that anti-gay prejudice is alive and well in America, and more widespread than many would like to admit," Aravosis said. "Let's hope that our political leaders wake up to that fact before there's another Matthew Shepard."

According to NYU's statement of policy, each NYU Internet user promises that "I understand that my access to NYU computing resources is for the sole purpose of facilitating my work as a University student, staff member or faculty member." In addition, the statement notes that: "Any abuse or violation of the rules outlined here (or of other rules and practices governing the use of computer networks to which NYU is attached) will lead to account suspension and immediate review, with the possibility of account revocation, further disciplinary action in accordance with New York University rules and procedures, and referral to local, state and federal law enforcement authorities." The entire statement can be found at

As recent statements from NYU suggest that they do not consider such violent threats against gay men and lesbians to merit a full investigation, Aravosis is urging concerned citizens to call NYU president Jay Oliva at 212-998-2345, and email the NYU Webmaster at, demanding that the university conduct an immediate and full investigation of this threat, and deal swiftly and sharply with the individual involved.

Why vote this coming Tuesday? Because those who would demonize and dehumanize gay people are ratcheting up their extremist rhetoric and actions to ensure that gay people never fully share in the American dream. Consider the following:

* The House Republicans are bragging on their Web site at that they killed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
* A lesbian college student was attacked in Minnesota, after attending a vigil for Matthew Shepard, by two men, one masked and armed with a knife. One of her attackers was 5-foot-9, 225 pounds; the other was 5-foot-7, 190 pounds. Before they fled on foot, one told the woman: "You're a smart dyke. Don't say anything to anyone." The woman, about 5-foot-7, was treated at St. Cloud Hospital for a bruised right eye and cuts to her face and hands.
* Four men were brutally attacked last weekend in San Francisco by five men who jumped out of a van yelling "fags" and "honey."
* Two men were shot dead in Guerneville, California last weekend just after one of them - who was gay - had repeatedly been harassed by a stranger.
* On October 15, UPI reports that a bisexual Cincinnati man was found beaten and strangled in his home.
* Days before Matthew was attacked, a court in Hawaii sentenced the murderer of a gay man to a simple misdemeanor offense, with a maximum sentence of one year.
* On October 20, someone posted this message on my Matthew Shepard bulletin board: "It's not too late to try and be STRAIGHT. Give up your homo lifestyle or more fags will die and lesbians raped and impregnated and forced to bear straight children. This is war against you homo perverts!!"

The Republicans in Congress say we aren't victims of hate, and need no protection from people who want to kill the fags and rape the lesbians. If you disagree, then do the following things to help ensure a good and well-educated pro-gay vote on Tuesday:

1) Call the US Congress switchboard at 202/224-3121, ask for you Senators and House Member, and ask their office if they did or did not support the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. If you don't know your House Member, visit this Web site to find out

Now remember: the cowards didn't even let the bill come up for debate, let alone a vote. So there's no record of who voted for or against the bill, since no vote happened. Therefore you need to be very firm and demand to know whether they support this bill or not - i.e., will they vote for it in the next Congress or not.

2) Call the local campaign offices of anyone running for any position in your state and ask if they support the federal Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

3) Vote next Tuesday - and if anyone from either Congress or a local campaign office gives you anything other than an emphatic "YES - we support the Hate Crimes Prevention Act!", vote against them on Tuesday.

4) Call and email all your friends, and make sure they vote on Tuesday, AND tell them what you've found out from your phone calls to Congress and the local campaigns. Do another round of calls and emails Monday night to make sure they vote on Tuesday.

5) If you're at a school, office, church, or other gathering place over the next 5 days, use this as an opportunity to spread the word. Put up flyers, talk to your friends, family and colleagues. Maybe give a speech.

6) Send letters-to-the-editor to your local paper immediately - either by postal mail (look at your paper's editorial page for the address, and see if you can fax it to them), or send it by email. You can find email addresses for a lot of local papers at

(7) Call the campaign of someone running for the US House or Senate who supported the Hate Crimes bill (just call 411 to get the number) and volunteer to help their campaign over the next 5 days - they could use the help, it's a lot of fun, and quite rewarding - and drag your friends with you!

(8) Print out this message, or copy and paste it into an email message, and distribute it widely via email, on message boards, to colleagues, coworkers, fellow church-goers, family, students, etc.

Folks, a number of you have been asking what you can do to honor Matthew's life. Probably the biggest thing you could do is to make sure you and everyone you know votes on Tuesday, and make sure you vote with this horrible crime in mind. Our elected officials are supposed to care about our lives and those of our loved ones. Let's make sure they know that come next Tuesday.


October 24, 1998 - 2:00PM EDT

Contact: John Aravosis, 202/328-5707,

US Senator becomes fourth Wyoming official to weaken statement surrounding anti-gay crime

Washington, DC - In an increasingly disturbing trend, US Senator Michael Enzi (R-WY) is the fourth Wyoming official now backing down from an earlier statement linking "hate and stereotyping" to Matthew Shepard's savage murder.

According to documents received by Wired Strategies, in response to a request that Senator Enzi support federal hate crimes legislation, the Senator replied by email on October 15: "let us work together to ensure that we avoid the kind of hate and stereotyping that gave rise to this crime in the first place."

Yet on October 22, after another plea to the Senator to back such legislation, the Senator replied: "let us work together to ensure that we avoid the kind of hate and stereotyping that may have given rise to this crime in the first place." The latter email changed the statement "gave rise" to "may have given rise," clearly downplaying the linkage between hate and Shepard's murder. The change prompted the author of the initial email request to ask: "Is he downplaying the role of hate and homophobia?"

Enzi’s effort to diminish the hate bias link to Shepard's murder is in marked contrast to the assessment offered by the victim's friends. Walter Boulden, a close friend of Shepard who spoke at the DC vigil commemorating the murder, told the Associated Press (AP) on October 9 that the crime was clearly motivated by hate. ``There is no maybe,'' he told the Branding Iron, the campus paper. In addition, Terry Summers, a friend of Shepard who is the executive director of the Fort Collins-based gay support group LAMBDA, told AP that same day: "It seems pretty obvious from the court proceedings that he was beaten and robbed because he was gay."

Ominously, the Senator is not alone in his effort to back down from earlier statements characterizing Shepard's murder as a hate crime. When news of Shepard's murder first broke on October 9, Albany County Sheriff Gary Puls initially characterized the attack as a ``hate crime,'' according to the Associated Press. When Puls was later asked if it was an anti-gay attack, he replied: ``At the present time we are not confirming that."

Then there’s Police commander Dave O'Malley, a 25year veteran of the police force, who was initially quoted by AP on October 9 saying that there had been a few hate crimes over the years, "but nothing anywhere near this." That same day, O'Malley changed his tune away from an anti-gay bias motive, and was reportedly telling the press that robbery was the chief motive, and that Shepard was victimized only in part because he was gay, even though O'Malley admitted to AP that Shepard's accused murderers made anti-gay statements to their girlfriends right after the murder.

In addition, Wyoming Governor Geringer was quoted by AP on October 9 saying: "hate crime legislation is needed." Yet three days later on October 12, the governor released a statement now belittling hate crimes legislation: "if hate is involved as a motive, it can make the penalty more severe. That helps little, if the victim is dead." The governor's statement went on to criticize the national attention the Shepard case was receiving, almost implying hypocrisy on the part of Shepard’s supporters: "I note with irony that the national press didn't bat an eye when young Kristin Lamb was abducted from her grandparent's front yard, raped, murdered and dumped in a landfill. That action is just as repulsive as the loss of Matthew Shepard."

Then on October 13, the governor's spokesman told ABC News that with regards to a hate crimes law "the governor says he's still not convinced the state needs one." ABC then showed footage of the governor actually chastising supporters of hate crimes legislation: "we shouldn't be running off as a lynch mob might trying to look for vigilante justice, because that would be just as wrong as the act we deplore already." Quite a turn from the governor’s initial unequivocal statement of support for the legislation.

"There may be a clandestine effort by Wyoming's officials to re-cast Shepard's death as a simple robbery," said John Aravosis, an Washington, DC-based online advocate who has been maintaining a Web site of information on the Shepard case ( "Whether it's blatant homophobia, simple ignorance, or a cave to pressure from religious fundamentalists, the fact remains that four key Wyoming officials have now backed off earlier statements establishing a clear link between anti-gay hate and Shepard's murder. It's suspicious to say the least."

Also of concern, says Aravosis, is the fact that according to AP on October 9, Albany County prosecutor Cal Rerucha refused to comment on the beating, and then asked the judge to seal the records in the case. According to the Rocky Mountain News on October 11, those records are now sealed and a gag order has been imposed in the case – virtually eliminating access to information surrounding the prosecution by the press and public. "Were Wyoming's officials adopting a strategy of downplaying the hate crime aspect of Shepard's gruesome murder, sealing the court records would be a great way to hide that fact from the public," said Aravosis, who is a lawyer.


Elegy for Matt
by John Aravosis

For ten days in October, the world came out. In a global electronic epiphany, a light was turned on as millions tapped into an awareness, an understanding, and an empathy of gayness that before October 9 most had never known.

We held vigils, sent emails, shared our grief, and demanded change. Many found a new drive to live - and others, a spirit-to-fight long forgotten.

From Zimbabwe to Australia, and from Portland Oregon to Portland Maine, our love knew no borders, we cast aside our prejudices, and tended the bedside of a dying young man.

"Thank you John, I am thousands of miles away here in Zimbabwe. But I feel so deeply that I cannot put this in words!! Of course us gays here are totally taboo, but one day we too shall win. It is my fervent belief that God has a special place for us, and indeed a special purpose. Thank you my friend, Brian." - email, October 18, 1998.

We came out to loved ones:

"I was afraid of what would happen to me if I came out. But, this secret was tearing me up inside. I told my best friend that I was gay. Thankfully, she accepted me for WHO I am not WHAT I am. Yesterday, I told another friend. Matt Shepard's death must mean something. Even though he died because of irresponsible hatred, I will not let that deter me. I am gay. It is the way that God made me. He made me this way for a purpose. What that purpose is, I do not know. But I will not hide behind the shame and hatred that I have lived behind for so long. Matt Shepard may have died, but his strength lives on in each of us." - email, October 20, 1998.

We took a stand:

"This isn't just a gay thing anymore. This is really about humanity and decency. Let every ounce of bigotry and hatred be met with equal measure of determination to end it. We can do it. I've taken the gloves off. I just fuckin' dare one idiot to cross my path at this point. I'm not looking for a fight but I sure as hell won't tolerate a fool." - email, October 20, 1998.

We demanded an accounting:

"I am certain that the homosexual population of Mississippi, and their families and friends would like to know why you, Senator Lott, consider the length of Duck Hunting Season [a last-minute addition to the budget bill by Sen. Lott] more worthy of your efforts than the safety of your voters. Or are you putting you gay/lesbian constituents on the same level with ducks, open season on both?"- email to Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott's office, October 21, 1998.

We rekindled our spirit:

"For 35 years I've been a happy gay guy living with my lover in nice houses, but 35 years ago we - he and I - stood outside the Stonewall and participated, not violently, very young then, but, upheld our fellows feelings. It was a good feeling: one we can look back on with pride. I will begin to pick up the banner again. We've hidden, happy, and complacent. [The Shepard case has] revive[d] a spirit I thought I didn't need anymore."- email, October 20, 1998.

And we vowed to fight back:

"I have always voted for the person not the party - but now after what the Republicans are doing and have done I cannot vote for even ONE of them. I will vote along straight Democratic party lines!!!! Urge everyone to do the same and tell Lott and his ilk that that is what we are doing!"- email, October 20, 1998.

Yet in spite of our renewal, and restraint, others choose to hate. They make monsters of gay men and lesbians, while cloaking their message in hope, in love, and in God.

Kill the gays:

" 'Lesbian love, sodomy are viewed by God as being detestable and abominable. . . . Civil magistrates are to put people to death who practice these things,' said Rich Agozino, host of [Christian radio show] 'Crosstalk' on radio station KBRT-AM (740) in Costa Mesa, urging callers to write to their state legislators asking them to enact laws that would punish homosexuality according to biblical law, meaning capital punishment, according to a transcript of the Aug. 29 show." - Los Angeles Times, September 5, 1997.

Rape the lesbians:

"It's not too late to try and be STRAIGHT. Give up your homo lifestyle or more fags will die and lesbians raped and impregnated and forced to bear straight children. This is war against you homo perverts!!" - Posted on October 20, 1998 to the Matthew Shepard Online Resources bulletin board

Because we're dishonest:

" 'These people are intellectually dishonest in just about everything they do or say,' the Congressional Quarterly quoted Helms as saying when asked about the documentary. He added, 'They start by pretending that it is just another form of love. It's sickening.' " - Senator Jess Helms, Variety, June 30, 1998.

Because we're liars:

" 'Homosexuality is a decision, it's not a race,' White said. 'People from all different ethnic backgrounds live in this lifestyle. But people from all different ethnic backgrounds also are liars and cheaters and malicious and back-stabbing.' " - Reggie White, Associated Press, March 25, 1998.

Because we're pedophiles:

"There is a strong undercurrent of pedophilia in the homosexual subculture. Homosexual activists want to promote the flouting of traditional sexual prohibitions at the earliest possible age....they want to encourage a promiscuous society - and the best place to start is with a young and credulous captive audience in the public schools." - Family Research Council,

Because we're sinners:

"It is [a sin]....You should try to show them a way to deal with that problem, just like alcohol...or sex addiction...or kleptomaniacs." - Senate Republican Leader Trent Lott, Associated Press, June 15, 1998.

Because we should be arrested:

"Bob Jones University has a message for gay alumni: Stay away or be arrested. The Christian fundamentalist school threatened Thursday to arrest all gay graduates who return to campus. Wayne Mouritzen, a retired minister and Bob Jones graduate, got a letter banning him from campus because officials discovered he is gay. The letter, signed by Bob Jones' dean of students, said: 'With grief we must tell you that as long as you are living as a homosexual, you, of course, would not be welcome on the campus and would be arrested for trespassing if you did visit.' " - Associated Press, October 23, 1998.

Because we're going to hell:

"In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, homosexuals are included in a list of sinners, who, if unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God." - Family Research Council press release on the day of Matthew's funeral, October 16, 1998.

Religious extremists vilify us. Call us diseased, perverted, immoral, and abomination. They say on TV and radio that we deserve to lose our jobs, our children, our families and our homes. They prepare studies for Congress "proving" we are unfit teachers, parents, ambassadors, and soldiers. They liken us to adulterers, murderers, kleptomaniacs, and alcoholics. And they accuse us of being anti-family, anti-Christian, anti-God, and anti-America.

This is not love. It is a blasphemy of Christianity that makes one yearn less to be an ex-gay than an ex-Christian. It pollutes the word of God, and wrongly tells America that people of faith are crazy, backward, and bitter. And worst of all, it teaches our young that to love God one must hate man.

Their hate killed Matt.

But "no," they protest, words don't kill people - people kill people.

"Don't blame AA because a drunk was beat up," said Heather Farish of the Family Research Council, responding to charges that her organization's anti-gay rhetoric gives license to anti-gay violence. Dallas Morning News, October 17, 1998.

But how do they explain the religiously-justified hatred pervading our youth?

"I was talking to a group of high school students that I teach about Matthew's death, and what I heard shocked me. Not only did they think he deserved what he got, but they wanted to go and defend his killers because it was a 'Holy Killing.'" - email, October 16, 1998.

It is simply not possible to preach the inhumanity of man, then blithely skulk away when principle meets practice. It is simply not moral to give a child a gun, then feign ignorance when someone gets hurt.

If words do not inspire actions, then why did they spend $500,000 on an ad campaign to inspire gays to 'convert'? They know words have consequences, and their words are nothing less than the subjugation and dehumanization of gay and lesbian Americans. It is no wonder that decades of disdain eventually led to violence.

"We knew there would be a Matthew Shepard, we just didn't know who it would be." Wayne Besen of the Human Rights Campaign, The [Bergen Co., N.J.] Record, October 21, 1998.

Last week a part of us died, but another was reborn. And while we didn't win the hearts of Congress, we captured the soul of America, and the world. Many of us are no longer afraid. No longer alone. And no longer complacent in the face of evil. While angry, sad and dispirited, we finally fought back for one of our own. And it felt good, and just.

For me, October 9 will always be Matt Shepard day.

The day we cast aside our shame.

The day we declared our humanity.

The day we challenged their lies and their hate.

The day we defended our brothers and sisters, and ourselves, publicly and proudly.

And the day we paused to honor an unknown friend, whose soul inspired a revolution he will never see.

So let this be our call to arms. Our call to action. OUR call to reclaim America.

If Matt could survive alone in the cold - bound, beaten and broken - then we can find the strength to fight on in his name, and put a stop to this nonsense once and for all.

For Immediate Release
Oct 20, 1998 - 6:25PM EDT

Contact: John Aravosis, 202/328-5707,

Contradict Sen. Lott's claim that bill would die because of no time

Washington, DC - In a document just obtained by Wired Strategies, the House Republican Conference (an arm of the US House of Representatives Republican leadership) is taking credit for having "stopped" the hate crimes bill. The House leadership document contradicts claims from Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott's staff that the Hate Crimes Protection Act would not pass because Congress had run out of time.

Millions of Americans, and citizens of the world, reacted in shock, sadness and anger at the recent torture and death of 21-year-old college freshman Matthew Shepard. Shepard was abducted, pistol-whipped, strung up as though crucified, and then left to die for 18 hours on a cold Wyoming road two weeks ago.

In a spontaneous show of anger and support, nearly 100 vigils have taken place around the US and Canada to honor Shepard, highlight the menace of hate crimes, and demand that Congress immediately pass hate crimes legislation. Concerned individuals across the US and from as far as Zimbabwe, Australia, and Russia sent emails to the United States Congress, the Wyoming Governor, and Web sites devoted to Matthew Shepard's memory, expressing their concern about the Shepard case, and the need to pass hate crimes legislation. In addition, Americans nationwide, and in countries as far as Hong Kong, telephoned US members of Congress over the last several days to demand passage of the bill.

The House document attacks the hate crimes bill as being a part of "the President's big-government agenda," and calls the death of the legislation "a win for conservative priorities." Under a section entitled "Reinventing Big-government -- Presidential Priorities the Congress Stopped", the House leadership lists: "'Hate crime' proposals that criminalize motive rather than punish violent crime."

In a phone call this past Friday, Senator Lott's staff told a supporter that the legislation would die because it was simply too late to bring it up this year - the staffer gave no indication of the partisan strategy that now seems to be the reason for the bill's death. The decision to kill the legislation came on the heels of a new Time/CNN poll released last Saturday finding that 75% of Americans think the problem of violence against homosexuals is serious across the country.

"The House leadership has dishonored the memory of Matthew Shepard for partisan political gain," said John Aravosis, an Internet consultant who has been maintaining a Web site about the Shepard case . "It's incredible that House Republicans would brag about killing a bill that protects the disabled, women and gay people from being brutalized by hate," he added.

"Hate is not a family value, but it seems to be a conservative one," continued Aravosis. "This wasn't a partisan issue, it was about the savage murder of a kid that shocked millions of Americans, both Republicans and Democrats," Aravosis added, "Is that all Matt's death meant to Gingrich - a chance to slam the President? Is he that out of touch?"

The House Republican Conference document can be found on the Internet at:

Folks, I have bad news - they lied to us.

According to even more press reports (see the most recent article below), the House and Senate continue to add their own pork projects to the budget bill, even though they told a large number of you who called in the last few days that "it's too late" to add the hate crimes bill to the budget. The bottom line folks, they're pulling a fast one on us - or in laymen's terms, they lied to get you off their backs. In terms of timing, the House will vote on the bill at 5:30PM EDT today (Tuesday), and the Senate will vote tomorrow. In the Senate, the actual Senators will be present for the vote (the House members probably won't returnt to DC).

Examples of special interest pork added to the budget bill at the last minute (source: Associated Press):

_$250,000 to an Illinois firm to research caffeinated chewing gum.

_$750,000 for grasshopper research in Alaska.

_$1 million for ``peanut quality'' research in Georgia.

_$12.5 million more for the District of Columbia than it requested.

_$90 million to give six Blackhawk helicopters to the Colombian National Police for anti-drug efforts.

_$11 million to help rebuild a 40-year-old terminal at the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton International Airport, sought by Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

There have easily been 100 vigils across the country to demand justice for Matthew, and passage of the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA). And the one last night in NYC was attended by 5,000, and then was brutally broken up by the police on horseback (arresting nearly 100 people). We are sad, we are angry, and we will not tolerate being played a fool. The congressional leadership has calculated that this election is about motivating the religious right to vote, and anything that protects the lives of the "fags", the women, and the disabled won't fly with the "family values" crowd, since they only value their own families.

So what can you do? At this point, time is running out. I won't lie to you. But I think that in view of the fact that they've lied to us - they've told us repeatedly that there just wasn't time to bring the hate crimes bill up for a debate, and that the budget agreement was already complete and nothing could be added to it - it's worth our taking a stand and letting Congress know that we will not be taken for fools.

I recommend everyone call your two Senators office TODAY AND TOMORROW (Tuesday and Wednesday) - call the Congressional switchboard at 202/224-3121 and ask who the Senators are from your state, then ask to be connected to them. When the office answers, demand to talk to the Senator, then if you can't, demand to talk to the "chief of staff/adminstrative assistant" (their top aide), then next down the line is the "legislative director." These are the folks who pull the strings, don't let them give you some lowly staffer, we're beyond that now.

We're also, I think, beyond being nice. Don't be completely rude or obnoxious, because that never helps, but I also believe - having worked as a lawyer in the Senate for 5 years - that the only thing that can help now is a populist uprising of anger and disgust. They need to know that you are quite upset, will not take "no" for an answer, and plan to raise hell back home if they don't intervene and include HCPA in the budget.


1) Call your Senators, ask for the chief of staff, then the legislative director, and raise hell - and let them know you know about the pork, and the fact that they can help on this bill if they so choose.

2) Call 5-10 friends and get them to call as well. As few as 40-50 calls into one office really does start to rattle them.

3) Your message: I'm mad as hell that Congress is misrepresenting what it can do on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA) while passing pork left and right (caffeinated chewing gum!)- and I expect my Senator to either include the hate crimes bill in the budget, or to vote against the budget bill on Wednesday (for the Senate) until HCPA is included.

Quick note: there is already a hate crimes law on the books, but it doesn't yet include sexual orientation, gender or disability - HCPA would amend the law to include those categories. So, this isn't a "new" law, it's simply a recognition that women and people with disabilities, along with gays, deserve to be protected from hate-bashings. Pretty radical concept.

Now read about the pork first-hand:

Friday October 16 11:17 PM EDT
Budget Vote Delayed Until Next Week
By DARLENE SUPERVILLE Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON (AP) _ A new tunnel in Boston, a tax break for oil products importers, a longer duck-hunting season in Mississippi _ as usual, there's plenty of legislative pork in the $500 billion budget deal reached by the White House and congressional Republicans.

Congress votes on the colossal bill Tuesday, then goes home for two hasty weeks of campaigning before the Nov. 3 elections, armed with bragging rights about the bacon they're bringing to their districts. On Friday, Congress passed a resolution keeping the government operating through Tuesday.

House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said Friday the agreement was the best ``you could get when you have a conservative Republican Congress and a liberal Democratic president.''

Mississippi duck hunters will get an extended season, thanks to Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., who won a long-running dispute with the Interior Department. Lott said he resorted to legislation after the department reneged on an agreement to extend the season after the Senate confirmed a new assistant secretary.

Questioned about the provision at a news conference Thursday, Lott stressed that hunters won't get a single dollar _ just more ducks to kill.

``It allows them to have ducks to hunt,'' he replied.

``It's true. It does,'' added Gingrich.

``You've got to hunt where the ducks are. That's what this would do,'' continued Lott. ``No funding involved. Just an opportunity to hunt ducks.''

But while Lott got more ducks, Gingrich was losing an effort to help important constituents _ peanut farmers seeking to overturn a Transportation Department order barring allergy-inducing peanuts from domestic flights where a passenger has a medically documented peanut allergy.

Standing in the way is Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., chairman of the House Appropriations transportation subcommittee, who is sensitive to the issue: He's allergic to crabs.

``This has reached the highest level of the food chain,'' said Rob Leebern, chief of staff for Rep. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., who was pushing with Gingrich and other top GOP leaders to add to the catchall spending bill legislation overturning the order.

Some loose ends and disagreements remained Friday over specifics of the deal clinched Thursday, including a dispute over how to distribute $6 billion in emergency aid to farmers.

House and Senate negotiators and staff met all day to translate the agreement into legislation that's likely to exceed 3,000 pages and stand more than a foot tall. As the drafting proceeded, some lawmakers launched 11th-hour bids to get pet projects into the final bill.

Rep. Jack Kingston, R-Ga., said he was pushing to get limited access through protected federal lands to a historic mansion on Cumberland Island, Ga. In exchange, the government would spend $11.9 million to buy more land for the affected federal preserve.

But most such projects were part of Thursday's agreement.

Massachusetts, currently digging an $11.6 billion tunnel under Boston, will get $100 million for surface transportation projects _ thanks to old-fashioned politics.

On learning the state would lose substantially under June's transportation funding law, Sens. John Kerry and Edward Kennedy and Rep. Jim McGovern, all Massachusetts Democrats, sought to make up the loss.

Kerry got Lott, Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle, D-S.D., and top Senate Environment and Public Works Committee members to promise to find $100 million for the state.

A planned separate bill ran into trouble, so lawmakers aimed for the end-of-year spending measure.

``Promises made are promises kept,'' Kerry said.

Companies that import petroleum products, turn them into new commodities and export them also benefit. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, won changes that make it easier for these companies to get refunds of U.S. import duties paid, estimated at $4 million a year.

Home health care agencies affected by Medicare changes also will share $1.7 billion over five years under the bill, paid for in part by letting winners of gambling jackpots collect their prizes in a lump sum instead of over many years.

But it appeared that an effort by Rep. Porter Goss, R-Fla., to provide $100,000 in grants to hemophiliacs who contracted AIDS from blood transfusions in the 1980s was out of the bill. His southwest Florida district was home to Ricky Ray, a hemophiliac teen-ager who died after a transfusion. Many victims have died or are near death and have become poor because of failing health and sizable medical bills.

``It was looking real good (Thursday) but it's not looking real good today,'' Goss spokeswoman Jennifer Miller Wise said Friday. ``We're still working at it.''

Among other ``special projects'' in the bill, according to congressional sources:

_$250,000 to an Illinois firm to research caffeinated chewing gum.

_$750,000 for grasshopper research in Alaska.

_$1 million for ``peanut quality'' research in Georgia.

_$12.5 million more for the District of Columbia than it requested.

_$90 million to give six Blackhawk helicopters to the Colombian National Police for anti-drug efforts.

_$11 million to help rebuild a 40-year-old terminal at the Wilkes-Barre-Scranton International Airport, sought by Rep. Bud Shuster, R-Pa., chairman of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

John's Commentary: You'll note from this article that Congress is STILL adding extraneous legislation to the Budget Bill, even at this late hour - AND that the bill is now being loaded with pork. Remember when I said that they weren't telling the truth by saying that it was "too late" to add anything to the bill. It's only too late to add anything that actually helps people, particularly innocent murder victims. But for pork and special interests, there's always time. And they're not evening voting on the pork, they're just jamming it in the bill. Read this story just in:

Congress Likely To Pass Budget Bill
The Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Lawmakers struggled to win last-minute changes in a huge $500 billion spending measure or to find out precisely what was in it as Congress prepared for its likely passage this week.

White House officials and congressional leaders agreed to the package last Thursday after a week of bargaining. But lawmakers spent Monday resolving lingering disputes over extending some tariffs and buttressing the Medicare home health-care program, Many members of Congress and aides professed ignorance about a measure that some officials said would number about 4,000 pages.

``The first thing I want to do is find out everything that's in it,'' said Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del.

Ironically, the mammoth bill includes provisions dealing with the government's Paperwork Reduction Act.

Only a few copies of the bill were available Monday, and none were provided for the public. But a person familiar with the legislation, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the measure contained several late additions, including:

Language by Sen. Alfonse D'Amato, R-N.Y., requiring health insurers to cover breast reconstruction after mastectomies;

2 million to help start the Robert J. Dole Institute for Public Service and Public Policy at the University of Kansas, honoring the former senator and Republican presidential candidate; and 1.1 million for a nautical exhibit at Chicago's Museum of Science.

There was little suspense about the ultimate outcome: The House was expected to approve the measure Tuesday, and the Senate planned to ship it to President Clinton for his signature on Wednesday. To allow time, Congress planned to send Clinton a measure letting agencies stay open through Wednesday, the fifth such stopgap bill since fiscal 1999 began Oct. 1.

Even the likeliest pocket of opposition -- conservative House Republicans -- was said to be split over a bill that gave that group victories such as restrictions on Internet pornography, but defeats such as $20 billion in so- called emergency spending to be paid for out of expected federal surpluses.

``It's definitely a mixed bag,'' said Marty Dannenfelser, government relations director for the conservative Family Research Council.

Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, R-Miss., had hoped his chamber would approve the measure by voice vote. That would make it unnecessary for senators -- most of whom left Washington a week ago -- to return to the Capitol, since its passage would mark the end of Congress' legislative work for the year, except for a few smaller bills.

Lott also hoped to avoid a roll call vote that would reveal GOP splits, including divisions within his own leadership team, said some Republican aides who spoke on condition of anonymity.

But a roll call was planned after Sen. Rod Grams, R-Minn., and several other senators requested one, calling it ``irresponsible legislating'' for the bill to become law without a tally showing each lawmaker's vote.

The bill controls about one-third of the $1.7 trillion federal budget for fiscal 1999. It covers 10 Cabinet-level departments, including Education and Interior, plus many smaller agencies, foreign aid and the District of Columbia's budget.

But the package is far more than just a spending bill. The must-pass measure is loaded with projects for lawmakers' home districts, tax breaks for some businesses and families, and changes in anti-drug laws and other programs.

The White House and lawmakers on Monday resolved an 11th-hour hang-up over a bipartisan plan to pump $1.7 billion into Medicare home health-care providers, whose federal payments were cut by last year's budget-balancing law.

To help raise the money, lawmakers planned to let more higher-income couples convert existing Individual Retirement Accounts to Roth IRAs, which would cause them to pay taxes now. But many Democrats objected, arguing that would give some rich families a long-term tax break, so that item was dropped Monday.

Instead, Congress would finance the home-health provision by letting more lottery winners and gamblers receive their prizes in a lump sum, which would raise cash for the Treasury.

Also causing delays were negotiations over import tariffs. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer, R-Texas, was insisting on making it easier for importers of some foreign petroleum products to collect a federal refund for tariffs they pay.

But Senate Finance Committee Chairman William Roth, R-Del., and other senators wanted the bill to address other tariff questions as well, including the treatment of some imported chemicals.

The bill also contains provisions:

Implementing the 1997 Chemical Weapons Convention, which calls for the destruction of chemical weapons stockpiles and the monitoring of companies making potential components. The language would authorize inspections at U.S. chemical companies.

Moving the Arms Control Disarmament Agency and the U.S. Information Agency into the State Department next year.

Mon Oct 19, 1998 - 10:40PM EDT - FEEDBACK: "I could help by coming out!"
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 18:59:17 EDT
Subject: My way of helping

Thank you for the wonderful web-page you have created. It has helped more than you know. Allow me to explain. I live in [DELETED BY JOHN] where hate is no stranger, yet I was desperate to find a way to do something in the aftermath of Matt's death. I could think of nothing. Until it hit me while reading your website...I could help by coming out!

Until every gay citizen is out of the closet, we will be considered a dark and hidden society of perverts. Coming out helps to put a face with the word "gay", and those who might think that homosexuals are deviants could be educated otherwise by realizing that people they love are also gay. By coming out to my family I could look them straight in the eye and say "Am I the evil "thing" you associate with being gay? No I am not...and Matthew Shepard could very well have been been me! Is that what you would like to see?" So I decided THAT would be my gift to Matthew, and as it turned out it was also my gift to myself.

I told my family on Saturday, and by Sunday morning everyone I told became as outraged over the senseless beating and death as I was. I regret not having done it sooner, but thanks to Matthew I can now live an open life with no secrets in sight. I am now urging everyone I know to do the same.

John, as you said yourself...I will NOT be silent, I will NOT forget, Matthew deserves NO LESS.

This is an email I just received from a good friend in Boston. The names have been changed to protect him and his friends - all straight - from further violence.

From: "Mike"
To: "John Aravosis"


Looking at the site last night and over the last few days brought back some terrible memories. You may recall my little gay-bash incident -- proving that you don't need to be gay to be the victim of a hate crime. Have I ever told you the story?

Back in 1994 when I lived in South Boston -- you know, "Southie," setting for Good Will Hunting, etc. -- I was often told about the intolerance of the people there. But of course, I decided to give the town the benefit of the doubt.

I was a little shocked when I went to look at my apartment for the first time -- the current resident was a single mom who smoked cigarettes continually. When I first saw her she was wearing a t-shirt that read "Eighty Years Without the Queers -- St. Patrick's Day Parade, South Boston." It might have read ninety years, I don't remember the number. But then I thought, "well, this is the woman that's moving OUT, so I won't have to deal with her."

Boy, was I in for a rude awakening. The people in my building were very nice -- all family people that when you spoke with them privately, they all held beliefs that were contradictory to the perceived Southie status quo. It made me feel good that the perception wasn't the reality all the time.

Then one night I went to a bar with my room mate Peter (five foot six, dark features, 125 lbs) and my old college friend Doug (pasty, skinny white boy, five foot 10, 140lbs). I was wearing khakis, a blue denim shirt, and a colorful vest, and I think saddle shoes. I guess I looked kinda swooshy, huh? Peter was similarly dressed, and Doug, a prepster from the high-rent suburb of Weston, looked like he was getting ready for mixed doubles. Looking back now, in Southie, we looked so stereotypically gay it was RIDICULOUS.

That night at the bar we just kinda kept to ourselves because we hadn't seen Doug in a while and wanted to catch up. I even remember turning down a girl who asked me back to her place (she was cute, but she smoked like a fiend and there was this big Marine hitting on her all night). Strike two.

We left the bar early that night -- around midnight. When we got about four blocks from our house, all hell broke loose.

Coming toward us were about ten young Southie natives. Without saying a word, one of them threw a HAYMAKER of a punch -- an overhand right -- into Peter's face. he was out cold on contact. A couple people grabbed Doug, pulled him down, and started punching him in the face. They took some swings at me, but only one landed flush -- in the back of my head. Within a minute it was over, with all the punks walking off laughing. Neighbors heard the noise outside and came down. One called an ambulance which came in a few minutes. The cops were also called, but never arrived on the scene -- they came to the hospital instead.

I picked up Peter off the ground and he kept asking me, "Mike, what just happened? Why?" Doug was laying down in the street and eventually came to and walked over to us.

We got to the hospital where Peter learned that his cheek and his eye socket had been broken, and he had significant nerve damage in his cheek and lip. His eyesight was the immediate concern, and he was kept in the hospital for hours. He still has limited feeling in his lip, and it tends to droop. His left cheek now sinks in slightly. Doug had several stitches over his eye, and I got through with the least damage -- a nice bruise on the back of my head, and perhaps a slight concussion. Of course, at 165 pounds, I was the biggest, and cowards like those punks hit the smallest of us first.

I remember I had to call Peter's parents to let them know what happened at 3am. I remember Peter's mother waking from sleep, and I could tell that she was prepared for the worst as soon as the phone rang and she heard my voice. I started by saying, "Mary, the first thing you need to know is your son is going to be all right." Somehow, I don't think that helped very much. I then told her the details as best I could. Peter's parents came immediately.

My parents were vacationing in -- of all places -- Provincetown. They couldn't come that night.

The blood that dripped from Peter's face was still visible in the form of a dark stain on the ground where he fell for literally months after the attack. He stayed for a week at his folks' house in Winthrop and I actually went to P-town for a weekend. I bought a hammock, figuring I would be in it quite a bit, contemplating what had happened.

The folks in my building were shocked. We had lived in Southie long enough, according to them, that most people knew who we were and that we were "OK." The guy even called in a "shout-out" of sorts to the local newspaper (you can leave an anonymous message and they will print it in the paper) condemning the cowardly attack.

I remember being interviewed by a police officer in the hospital, who told me that since it was so dark and we had a few beers, we would be unable to make a positive ID on the attackers and that there would be nothing more the police could do.

Ah, but this was Southie, I thought. Everyone knows everyone else. I called a southie friend of my family's (his dad and brother were cops from southie -- if anyone could help us, he could). The first thing he told me was to drop it. Yeah, he heard about the attack, and he had a pretty good idea who did it. But he told me that we shouldn't pursue it because there would be "retribution."

You know, don't rock the boat. Boys will be boys. And what were we, three outsiders, walking down THEIR street late at night, anyway?

A few days later, one of the people in our building had learned something. The kids that attacked us thought we were gay. And one of the kids' fathers was a cop. But since we didn't appear to be pursuing the issue, and now they knew we weren't gay, we probably weren't going to be attacked again. I heard basically the same info from a woman I worked with later that week. She was a life-long southie resident.

Peter came back to the apartment and we began talking about moving out. Then a few weeks later the hate march came.

You probably remember the whole St.Patrick's Day Parade issue in Southie. In 1992 the Supreme Court ordered Wacko Hurley (yes, that 's what he's really called) and the rest of the parade organizers to allow a gay & lesbian Irish group to march in the parade. In 1993, I believe they canceled the parade in order to prevent the g&l group from marching in their town. In 1994, they were ready for the challenge.

1994's parade was not a St. Patrick's day parade -- but actually a protest march opposing outsider interference -- namely, the gay & lesbian Irish group. Having the g&l group march would be contradictory to the entire purpose of the parade, and they were ready to cancel it. The Courts agreed -- southie could have its little hate march without the gays.

Of course, the thing goes right by my FUCKING house. Civic leaders, local veterans, and even Boston City Councillors wore black armbands in protest of gay participation in their past parades and walked right by me, smiling all the way. There were still some St.Patrick's Day things around, but the folks knew they had to keep things somber and black if they wanted to march at all.

God, I wanted a rainbow flag so bad that day. I was gonna put it in my window. Funny thing was, nobody would have known what it was for.

So that did it. Peter and I moved out of a 4-bedroom apartment (we each paid $400 per month) and into a HUGE house in the People's Republic of Brookline with two other guys. Our rent almost doubled. Our commutes got longer. The food in Brookline SUCKS. Our landlord was a basket case.

But at least we were away from the hatemongers.

Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 11:34:55 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Making a difference


I'm a 24 year-old male coping with being gay in a conservative southern city. I am writing you because ever since hearing of the events in Wyoming and the resultant death of Matthew Shepard, I have had this burning drive to somehow make a difference. I came out to my mother this past Saturday, and, to my amazement, it was fairly smooth. This is only the first step, however; I am now determined to make a difference for the BETTER for the gay community.

John's commentary: How many of us can only wish that our life has in some way touched another.

Subject: (no subject)

To whom this concerns:
Hello. With the recent death of Matthew Shepard, the ugly side of the Christian church has shown its face. I am not writing this letter to debate the moral implications of homosexuality, it is illreleavant. I just want to write to tell you that people like Rev. Phelps do not represent the Christian church, or at least my church. GOd loves everyone, regardless. The religious extremists embarrass me as a Christian, and sicken me.
I was talking to a group of high school students that I teach about Matthew's death, and what I heard shocked me. Not only did they think he deserved what he got, but they wanted to go and defend his killers because it was a "Holy Killing". THis sickens me more. I feel for the family of Matthew, and pray for them in their grief.

[Name Withheld]

John of Wired Strategy's commentary: And militant fundamentalists tell us that their anti-gay words, in the name of God, have no consequences.

To: "John Aravosis"
Subject: Re: Please call Congress one last time....
Date: Mon, 19 Oct 1998 18:58:31 +0800


Add Hong Kong to that concerned list. I spent the weekend writing to every member of the senate and demanding their support. I also called (from Hong Kong) Senators from California (my home state), Colorado, Illinois, Washington, Montana, Utah-all states that I have connections, and demanded their support. Finally I wrote to Newt and Trent and demanded their support. If I can do it from Hong Kong, I would hope others would do it from their community.

Let's hope this passes today.

Mon Oct 19, 1998 - 6:30AM EDT - CALL CONGRESS TODAY!
Congress is nearly finished - in one day we'll know whether your representative will honor, or defile, the memory of an innocent young man murdered like an animal. The country, and the world, is watching. Will Congress do the right thing?

Today (Monday) is our last day to act. We flooded Newt Gingrich and Trent Lott with calls on Friday, and now it's time to do it one more time. Here's how you can help:

1) Call Gingrich and Lott on Monday - repeatedly - and tell them (strongly but politely) that you will be voting in November, and you expect them to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR3081 and S1529) before they adjourn;

* Lott's phone numbers:
DC -(202) 224-3135, and (202) 224-6253
MISSISSIPPI - Jackson (601) 965-4644; Greenwood (601) 453-5681; Gulfport (228) 863-1988; Pascagoula (228) 762-5400; Oxford (601) 234-3774.

* Gingrich's phone numbers:
DC - (202) 225-0600, and (202) 225-4501
GEORGIA - (770) 565-6398

* If you know anyone in Mississippi (for Lott) or Georgia (for Gingrich), call them now.

2) Call your US Senators and Representatives in Washington and at home - US Congress switchboard (202) 224-3121 (ask for your representative) - and tell them (strongly but politely) that you will be voting in November, that you're mad as hell, that you expect them to tell Lott and Gingrich to pass the bill before Congress adjourns.

* To find out who your Senators are, click here.
* To find out who your House Member is, click here.

3) Email and call all your friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers, and ask them to do the same.

The bottom line: Congress can pass the hate crimes bill if they choose to. I worked in the Senate as an attorney for 5 years, and if Lott and Gingrich want, they can insert the Hate Crimes bill in the budget and have it passed in a snap. Don't believe their lies about it being too late. Don't believe their lies about having passed a do-nothing "resolution," which simply states Congress' "concern" about Matthew's death (big deal).

Is it possible that Congress is so out of touch with the people, so bent on playing partisan politics and so hungry for scandal, that they are the only ones not touched by Matthew's death? I don't mean to be so emotional, but it sickens me that the entire world has shed tears over this kid's death - I've received pained emotional emails from Africa, Australia, Europe, and Russia - yet the only ones who don't give a damn are the people who think we will re-elect them in two short weeks. If the politicians in Washington can't act in the face of such a horrible, untimely, and senseless death, I for one have no intention of sending them back this November.

But we still have one more day. They have one more day.

Act now! Call your friends, call your family, call your co-workers, and most important of all, call Congress - like your life depended on it. Because, my friends, it does.

(Click here to read about the nationwide explosion of vigils demanding that Congress pass hate crimes laws. I've already tracked 71!)

From: Brian
To: "'John Aravosis'"
Subject: Matthew.
Date: Sun, 18 Oct 1998 17:09:14 +0200

Thank you John,

I am thousands of miles away here in Zimbabwe. But I feel so deeply that I cannot put this in words!!

Of course us gays here are totally taboo, but one day we too shall win.

It is my fervent belief that God has a special place for us, and indeed a special purpose.

Thank you my friend,


The following feedback came to me from someone who went to Matthew's funeral. It is the text from a commemorative leaflet given out to those who attended the service, and includes Matt's biography and a poem written about him by his cousin:

"Matthew Wayne Shepard, 21 of Laramie and Casper, Wyoming died early Monday, October 12, 1998 at Poudre Valley Hospital, Ft. Collins, Colorado of injuries sustained in an attack in Laramie. Memorial services will be held at 1:30pm Friday, October 16, 1998 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Casper. The Reverend Royce Brown will officiate.

Matthew was born December 1, 1976 in Casper, Wyoming. He is the older son of Judy Peck Shepard and Dennis Shepard. While living in Casper, he attended Crest Hill Grade School, Dean Morgan Junior High School and completed his sophomore year at Natrona County High School. He was a member and an acolyte in St. Mark's Episcopal Church. His last two years of high school at the American School in Switzerland (TASIS) in Lugano, Switzerland where he graduated in 1995. While at TASIS, he traveled extensively throughout Europe.

He is survived by his parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard of Casper, Wyoming and Dhahran, Saudi Arabia; one brother, Logan; his maternal grandparents, Francis and Vera Peck, his paternal grandparents, Harry and Ruth Shepard; and numerous aunts, uncles and cousins on both sides of his family.

In lieu of flowers, the family would appreciate donations to the Matthew W. Shepard Memorial Fund, c/o First National Bank, Account #1926083, P.O. Box 578, Ft. Collins, Colorado 80522."

It also contained the words to a poem written by Matthew's cousin:


An angel with new wings
In a place a world away
Can once again begin to sing
God took him in his arms today

He blessed his soul with loving care
And took away his pain
His life story all would share
His memory on their hearts a stain

So young a heart destroyed
For a cause unforgotten
Another's mind deployed
The result of a tragedy rotten

The tragic hero that's hard to find
A martyr with great courage
God's lamb in rare design
Never to be discouraged

Our love for him forever strong
His image will never fade
We'll meet him again before long
Temporary goodbyes we now must bade

Matty, I love you with all my heart
I wish you only know how much
You'll be happier with this brand new start
The world's hearts you have now touched

Three participants at the DC vigil approached me at the end of the event, holding a copy of the virulently anti-gay "Lambda Report". The Lambda Report is a monthly "news magazine" that writes about topics such as how gays were the real brains behind the Holocaust (they really wrote about this). Well, the three vigil participants were holding a copy of the Lambda Report and told me that they had just received it from Peter LaBarbera, who is the editor, and also the head of Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality. But they told me there was more: LaBarbera was reportedly at the vigil in the company of a supposed "ex-homosexual."

According to the witnesses, LaBarbera, accompanied by the young ex-gay, was overheard saying to a reporter in attendance: "Can we talk to you? We're from the other side of the issue and my friend here is a reformed gay." Now, if this account is true - there were three witnesses mind you, and they were holding a copy of LaBarbera's magazine - it's not clear what "other side" he'd be referring to, since 10,000 people were assembled to honor the life of a young man savagely slain in his prime. Not to mention, the idea of using Matt's vigil as an opportunity to push the "ex-gay" agenda is quite shocking, but perhaps not surprising. Was the idea that had Matt been an ex-gay we wouldn't have needed the vigil?

They tell us again and again that theirs is a message of love....and Brutus is an honorable man.

Sun Oct 18, 1998 - 7:00AM EDT - THE SUNDAY PAPERS
Washington Post
- "Brutal slaying focuses the nation on violence against gays"
New York Times - "The Hate Epidemic"
New York Times - "Hate Crimes Don't Matter, Except When They Do"
Associated Press - "Class tensions fill town where gay student was killed"
Scripps-McClatchy Western Service - "Residents of Casper reflect on death of Shepard, issue of homosexuality"
Salt Lake Tribune - "Principled Reaction"
Atlanta Journal-Constitution - "Gay killing renews penalty debate"
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - "Service honors Wyo. victim"
Pittsburgh Tribune-Review - "Hundreds attend CMU vigil"
Modesto Bee - "Modesto pays respects with an anti-hate vigil"
MSNBC - "New Yorkers support hate crimes act"
Boston Globe - "Victor town clerk gets anti-gay note"

Email I received:
Date: Sat, 17 Oct 1998 22:49:30 -0400
Subject: outcomes of the HCPA (Hate Crimes Prevention Act)

Would you be willing to post a web page or send me an email detailing which representatives and senators voted which way?

If if goes down, I would like to know if people I have the power to elect brought it down or not.


My response:
Thousands of you have joined my mailing list in only a few days, and over 400,000 have visited the Web site. If Congress kills HCPA, I promise you'll be hearing from us.

According to a Time/CNN poll released today, most Americans believe the attack that killed Matthew Shepard could happen in their communities. The Time/CNN poll found that three-quarters of the 1,036 adults questioned think the problem of violence against homosexuals is serious across the country. According to the survey conducted by telephone on Tuesday and Wednesday, 68 percent of those polled say a similar attack could happen in their community. 82 percent believe the government should treat homosexuals and heterosexuals as equals.

If the Republican leadership in Congress cared about the will of the people, and the untimely death of an innocent young American, they'd pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act on Monday. They still have time to do it. They certainly have the power to do it. But do they have the heart, the soul, the will, or the courage to honor Matthew's memory?

The American people are watching, and looking for leadership. Stay tuned.

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."
"Don't just mourn -- ORGANIZE"
- Mother Jones

This is John from Wired Strategies, this message is for everyone planning a vigil to honor Matthew, particularly those vigils taking place this weekend or Monday.

Perhaps the best way to pay tribute to Matthew is not just to remember him -- but to take action to help prevent this type of senseless violence from happening again by making a "call to action" part of your ucpoming vigil.

Please call on Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HR3081 and S1529) before they adjourn on Tuesday evening. Here's how.

1). Have a speaker at the vigil let participants know that there is a federal bill pending in Congress that would add sexual orientation (gender and disability) to the federal anti-hate crime law that now defines a hate crime as dealing only with race, religion, and national origin. Both Democrats and Republicans support the Hate Crimes bill, butt the Republican leadership (Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senator Trent Lott) is refusing to move the bill.

2). Ask participants to do 3 things:
-- call Lott and Gingrich on Monday and tell them to pass the bill before they adjourn;
* Lott's phone numbers: (202) 224-3135, and (202) 224-6253
* Gingrich's phone numbers: (202) 225-0600, and (202) 225-4501
-- call your US Senators and Representatives - or find them at home this weekend, they should be back in their states - and tell them (strongly) to tell Lott and Gingrich to pass the bill before they adjourn; and
-- ask friends, family, neighbors, co-workers, etc. to do the same.

3). Pass out leaflets calling for action step #2 (with appropriate phone numbers) at the vigil, at church, at work, at school, and otherwise; you can get already prepared electronic copies of those leaflets and posters (that you'll need to have printed) at the HRC Web site

4). Call you local newspaper reporters who have been covering this story and make sure they attend the vigil, and push them to report the importance of Congress taking action on the hate crimes bill before they adjourn.

5). If you can, try to have your vigil this weekend, so we can hopefully get some press and influence Congress on Monday.

6). If you're not currently planning on having a vigil, why not consider organizing one with a few friends?

CONCLUSION: We got a ton of phone calls into Lott's and Gingrich's offices on Friday, and from the feedback we've received, the calls were definitely blocking their phone lines, and they were none too pleased! But beware - their offices are trying to trick people who are calling - telling them that they already passed legislation to deal with Matthew's case, or telling people that the hate crimes bill is already dead. Here's the truth: what they passed already was a "resolution" that simply said they felt bad that Matthew died - big deal. And as for the hate crimes bill being dead - it's not dead, they haven't even allowed it to come up for a vote yet, but with a snap of their fingers, Lott and Gingrich could put the bill in the budget package and it would be a done deal. I used to work in the Senate, it's really that easy, if they have the will.

Our job, and I hope you agree, is to not let these guys get away with brushing our concerns aside. Matthew is gone, and the leadership in Congress would prefer that we go away as well. I for one have no intention of walking away from this fight. The election is only 3 weeks away. The entire country is outraged over Matthew's violent death. It's about time Congress learned to focus on issues that actually matter to the people. Because if they don't act now, perhaps we should make sure they won't be there after November.

Give em hell, and thanks as always for everything you're doing to honor Matthew's memory.


PS If you're having a vigil, could you email me back at and let me know how big of an event this is expected to be, and whether you think you can include the federal hate crimes issue in your event? We'd like to inform the national media about these vigils. Thanks!

Washington Post
- "Hundreds Gather to Remember Slain Man as `Light to the World'"
New York Times - "Shepard's Killing Lamented at Funeral and Across Nation"
Associated Press - "Gay Wyoming Student Laid To Rest"
Dallas Morning News - "Why now?"
National Public Radio - "Funeral Services for Gay Student" (audio story)
New York Post - "Tears for a Gay, 'Trusting' Soul"
Rocky Mountain News - "A day of mourning for Shepard"
Lancaster Intelligencer Journal - "In response to gay man's death, Wyoming slaying prompts local vigil"
Topeka Capital-Journal - "Graves says Phelps an 'embarrassment' to image of Kansas"
Salt Lake Tribune - "Funeral Draws Family, Friends and Protesters"
The Hartford Courant - "Raising the Demand for Awareness"
The Providence Journal - "'We must not be afraid and we must not run away'"
BBC - "Americans mourn gay hate crime victim"

Interesting stories from previous days:
San Francisco Chronicle - "Tell the Religious Right How It Should Be" (Oct. 16)
Denver Post - "Wyo. cyclist recalls tragic discovery"(this article is from Oct. 15, but just found it - it's about the guy who found Matt alongside the road, he believes God led him to Matt).

In yet another shocking example of poor timing, the religious right Family Research Council issued a statement today, reportedly distancing itself from fundamentalist protester Rev. Fred Phelps. The Family Research Council now joins a near-avalanche of anti-gay groups who today are rushing to disown the "pro-family" Phelps, just as his offensive protest of Matthew's funeral hit prime time.

Just as the American Center for the Truth About Homosexuality used their codemnation of Phelps as an opportunity to brand gays as immoral and akin to adulters, the Family Research Council (FRC) went one step further. FRC first admitted that: "we share Mr. Phelps' opposition to the homosexual political agenda, his belief that homosexuality is a sin", but that the organization differs with Phelps over "tactics." Even more amazing, FRC took the occasion of Matthew's funeral to declare that gay Americans, if they don't repent, will not go to Heaven: "homosexuals...if unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God." It was unclear whether FRC was implying that Matthew Shepard, since he was not an "ex-gay" before his murder, was therefore not going to heaven. Along those same lines, Phelps' protesters held signs saying "NO FAGS IN HEAVEN" and "MATT IN HELL".

The Family Research Council press release follows:

CONTACT: Kristin Hansen, (202) 393-2100
FOR RADIO: Chad Nykamp

Murder victim's family, friends deserve to be left alone, Knight says

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Rev. Fred Phelps, who brandishes signs such as "God Hates Fags," apparently plans to picket the funeral of murder victim Matthew Shepard. Family Research Council urges him not to do so.

"The Shepard family deserves to be left alone in their time of grief," said FRC's Director of Cultural Studies Robert H. Knight, who notes that Mr. Shepard's father has asked, "Don't let this become a circus. Don't use Matt as part of an agenda."

"Homosexual activists have ignored that father's plea and have exploited Matthew's death as a rallying cry for political activism," Knight said. "They have outrageously and absurdly linked the murder to a series of redemptive TV and newspaper ads about homosexuality sponsored by FRC, Coral Ridge Ministries and other pro-family groups. They are pressing for ill-advised federal 'hate crimes' laws, all the while using hateful rhetoric against Christians. If self-identified Christians harass and picket mourners at Mr. Shepard's funeral, then homosexual activists in the media will use the imagery to smear all Christians.

"While we share Mr. Phelps' opposition to the homosexual political agenda, his belief that homosexuality is a sin, and his call for punishment of Mr. Shepard's killers, we do not endorse his tactics, and have asked his group to stop letting themselves be used by the media to crudely caricature Christians.

"The 'truth in love' media campaign reaches out to people struggling with homosexuality and offers them hope for change and redemption. In 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, homosexuals are included in a list of sinners, who, if unrepentant, will not inherit the kingdom of God. Verse 11 says, however, 'And that is what some of you were. ...' This means that homosexuals, like other sinners, can be redeemed."

Personal testimonies from former homosexuals can be seen and heard on FRC's video documentary: Hope & Healing: Stories of Coming Out of Homosexuality. A companion booklet, also entitled Hope & Healing, offers an authentic Christian approach of ministering to people struggling with homosexuality.


To unsubscribe from this list, please call our order line at 1-800-225-4008. Family Research Council is located at 801 G Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001. Phone: 202-393-2100. Fax: 202-393-2134.

In a flurry of frantic press releases and television appearances, reminiscent of the famous 'Wizard of Oz' scene where the exposed fraud yells "ignore that man behind the curtain," religious right groups attempted to distance themselves today from one of their own - Baptist Minister Fred Phelps. Phelps and his parishioners protested outside Shepard's funeral today, carrying signs saying "AIDS CURES FAGS", "GOD HATES FAGS", "NO FAGS IN HEAVEN", "FAG SIN" (showing two stick figures of men having intercourse) - and worst of all, "MATT IN HELL". When Phelps' parishioners were interviewd on ABC News they said: "he lived in shame, he died in shame."

With Phelps at grave risk of giving intolerance a bad name, groups and individuals that are now trying to disown the religious right spokesman include the Family Research Council, the American Family Association, Jerry Falwell, Southern Baptist Convention, and Americans for the Truth About Homosexuality. The press release from the latter group, run by Peter LaBarbera, who is also editor of the viciously anti-gay "The Lambda Report", says that gays are "immoral" and compares them to adulterers. An ill-timed, but perhaps not surprising, slur of gay people on the day of Matthew's funeral. That release follows:

LaBarbera Condemns 'God Hates Fags' Pastor's Protest At Matthew Shepard's Funeral Jesus Said to Adulteress 'Go and Sin No More' -- Not 'God Hates Whores'

WASHINGTON, Oct. 16 /PRNewswire/ -- Peter LaBarbera, President of Americans for Truth, a group that opposes homosexual activism, condemned the picket by "God Hates Fags" activist Rev. Fred Phelps at the funeral of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old Wyoming student who was homosexual and was brutally murdered last week.

Phelps is a Topeka preacher who tours the country protesting homosexual events and funerals with signs containing messages such as GOD HATES FAGS, AIDS CURES FAGS, NO TEARS FOR QUEERS, etc. He has announced plans to picket Shepard's funeral in Carson, Wyoming today.

"Fred Phelps' pickets at funerals are ridiculous," LaBarbera said. "To confront a grieving family with such an incendiary message is offensive to both Christians and non-Christians alike. It certainly does nothing to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ as Phelps asserts."

Americans for Truth about Homosexuality has condemned the murder of Shepard -- and efforts to exploit it by homosexual activists who are attempting to link the crime to a recent profamily ad campaign that highlighted the testimonies of former homosexuals. Americans for Truth was one of 15 pro-family organizations to sponsor the ex-"gay" ads, which appeared in The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and other major newspapers. (The ads did not appear in a Wyoming or Colorado newspaper.)

"Once again, Phelps and the media are drawing attention to his crude and erroneous message that God 'hates' homosexuals," LaBarbera said. "We try to emphasize the hopeful message that homosexuality is an immoral behavior that -- like any sinful behavior -- can be overcome. Jesus said to the adulteress, 'Go and sin no more,' not 'God Hates Whores.'"

LaBarbera criticized the media for giving undue attention to Phelps, whose message and tactics have been criticized by most pro-family groups that oppose homosexuality. He added that ironically, "Phelps has been slow to recognize former homosexuals and 'ex-gay' Christian ministries, which have helped many men and women overcome homosexuality."

Americans for Truth publishes the bimonthly Lambda Report. For more information, see Web site: Phone: 703-491-7975.

Fri Oct 16, 1998 - 10:35PM EDT - NIGHTLINE TONIGHT ABOUT MATTHEW SHEPARD! ABC is saying that tonight's Nightline will be about: "Reflections from the people of Wyoming on the day of Matthew Shepard's funeral. Correspondent Michel McQueen reports on a community searching for answers in the brutal, beating death of his gay college student."

Friday October 16, 1998 - 5:30PM EDT

Invite the Media

As you know, the religious right has called on Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott to kill the Hate Crimes Prevention Act. For that reason, we have had a slew of folks calling Lott and House Speaker Newt Gingrich all day today to demand passage of the bill. From reports we've had, those offices are getting a LOT of calls, and are none too pleased about it. Lott's office reportedly called one caller "you people," and when the caller asked her name, she retorted: "what's YOUR name?"

Congress is still in session through Monday, so we have one more work day to get them to do the right thing. We are therefore urging EVERY TOWN to try and hold a vigil THIS WEEKEND - or that there be a statewide vigil at the office of your US Senators - to send a messge to Congress that Matthew's death shall not be in vain, they must pass the federal hate crimes law. In addition, we ask that you contact your local media and invite them to cover the story. Such public pressure is the only way we will convince Congress that hate is unacceptable.

Vigil Tips:

1) Plan your vigil for this Saturday or Sunday - as Monday is likely Congress' last day, it's easier to influence Congress by having the vigils now (though of course, later vigils are certainly encouraged nonetheless).

2) While candlelight vigils are of course beautiful, it's easier for local press to attend if you have an earlier vigil, like early afternoon, or late monrning.

3) We recommend holding the vigil outside the offices of your local Members of Congress - or if there aren't local offices near, you can hold it in a park, at a church, at a local college, really anywhere.

4) Invite 4 or 5 speakers representing different (but sympathetic) perspectives: for example, a parent; a gay young person; a preacher; a local politician; college kids; a local crisis counselor; anyone who has been the victim of a hate crime or bashing.

5) Have each person prepare and read a 5 minute statement, starting with who they are, and then telling why they think it's important that Congress, and their local Members of Congress, pass a federal hate crimes law.

6) Make multiple xeroxes of each statement to hand out to the press. 7) Make posters that you can hold up. Be creative, but make sure they call for Congress to pass the hate crimes law NOW!

8) Invite the media! Call your local newspapers, radio and TV stations, and tell them you're holding a vigil for Matthew Shepard and federal hate crimes legislation, and that you'd like them to cover it.

9) You can find some hate crimes data, and examples of anti-gay hate crimes from the last year, on the Matthew Shepard Online Resources site The data is in a number of the statement posted on the site (you'll have to scroll down through a lot to find them, but they're there.) The examples of hate crimes are in the left hand margin of the home page.

10) Also posted on the site is a statement made by one of Matthew's best friends at a vigil in DC the other day. It's a beautiful statement and calls on Congress to pass the hate crimes bill - perhaps there are some quotes you can use for the vigil, also perhaps make copies for the press.

11) Post your vigil on the Matthew Shepard Online Resources bulletin board, found at This allows others, including those of us in Washington, DC, and local and national press, to find out about it.

12) Check the bulletin board and see if there are other vigils taking place in your area. Consider joining forces, or at least mentioning each other during your respective vigils - to show how much is happening in your state or region.

13) Get more information on the federal law, and national hate crimes data, at a page set up by the Human Rights Campaign:

14) Find additional how-to resources on holding a vigil online at:

Thank you so much for everything you are doing. The incredible outpouring of emotion and activism is a dramatic tribute to Matthew's spirt and love.

Casper, Wyoming - 12:15PM EDT - MSNBC
Matt's family just held a brief press conference in Casper, Wyoming - preceding his funeral which will be this afternoon. The statement was carried live by MSNBC. What follows are some select quotes from the broadcast.

"We say goodbe to a wonderful young man", said Matt's uncle, introducing Matt's parents Dennis and Judy Shepard.

Matt's father and mother then approached the microphones. Matt's father, Dennis, spoke, while his mother stood by his side, holding an umbrella, clearly fighting back tears.

"We want to thank the citizens of the United States and the people of the world..." As Mr. Shepard began, Mrs. Shepard began to cry.

"A person as caring and loving as our son Matt would be overwhelmed by what this incident has done to the hearts and souls of people around the world....We the family have no adquate way of expressing our gratitude of the thousand of email comments, Web site messages, phone calls and cards offering help, consolation, sympathy and support that we have received....We are honored and touched beyond measure."

"We will never forget the love that the world has shared."

Matt's mother then began to sob, and the two parents walked away, arm in arm, preparing for the imminent funeral of their 21 year old son.

Personal note from John of Wired Strategies:
A well-placed Senate source told me tonight that a certain well-known "family values" group has told Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS) to kill the Hate Crimes Prevention Act before Congress finishes up today (Friday). Today is Matthew's funeral. And while the Rev. Fred Phelps is protesting at Matthew's grave, his henchman are doing their best to keep hate alive in Washington. We HAVE to get as many calls - not emails (it's too late for that) - as possible to Lott and Gingrich IMMEDIATELY!

Our goal? Close down their phones.

Let's do this one for Matthew, folks.

PS Don't let them tell you they're passing, or have passed, a "resolution" on Matthew's death. These are do-nothing bills, like declaring "National Butter Day," that Congress passes to kiss up to special interests - we want a real law that protects our lives.

Now read the following official alert....

Friday October 16, 1998

Emergency Action to Honor Matthew Shepard***

The Human Rights Campaign, Wired Strategies, GLAAD, NGLTF and PlanetOut are jointly sponsoring a national day of action to tell Congress "Enough is Enough - Pass the Hate Crimes Law NOW!"

WHAT: We are mobilizing the Net to shut down the phones of House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott until they pass the HATE CRIMES PREVENTION ACT. Congress' last day for the year is Friday October 16 - so we need to act now, and close them down all day long.

WHEN: Friday October 16, naturally.

HOW'S IT WORK?: The action is easy.

1) Pick up the phone and call Sen. Lott and Rep. Gingrich now!
* Lott's phone numbers: (202) 224-3135, and (202) 224-6253
* Gingrich's phone numbers: (202) 225-0600, and (202) 225-4501

* TELL THEM: "Matthew Shepard's death in not just a tragedy, it's unacceptable. Congress has been sitting on the Hate Crimes Prevention Act for over a year. Pass it now before the Congressional session is over!"

2) Send this email to as many friends as possible, urging them to act.

3) If you have a Web site, we would ask that you post an alert on your home page all day Friday asking everyone visiting your site to call Sen. Lott and Rep. Gingrich immediately.

A FINAL WORD: Matthew Shepard may be gone, but we refuse to let his too short life and untimely death be in vain. Please join us now in turning our sorrow and anger into positive action. If you need some inspiration, take another look at the Virtual Vigil, linked off the top of this page - read the quotes, see the pictures, feel the spirit, and act like your life depends on it. It does.

I've just received the following email from a 24-year-old in Portugal.

From: "Nunes"
Date: Fri, 16 Oct 1998 02:35:56 +0100

I'm a 24 year old Portuguese and I was quite shocked when I read in a local newspaper about the death of young Matthew Sheppard. I live in a country almost unknown for the most of the americans, where homosexuality isn't accepted as it is in the U.S., however where things like this don't happen. You're probably the most evolved country in the world so, how can things like this still happen. Being gay is wonderful...why dont they let as live in same way we let them ????

Why indeed, Nunes.

Thursday, October 15, 1998


Law Makers Call for Congress to Pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act

WASHINGTON -- Thousands of mourners gathered on the west steps of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. Wednesday night in remembrance of Wyoming hate crime victim Matthew Shepard. The candlelight vigil, organized by HRC, GLAAD, and NGLTF, helped focus the nation's attention on the pervasive problem of anti-gay violence, according to the Human Rights Campaign.

"This hate crime did not happen in a vacuum. We all know there has been a concerted, obsessive and well-resourced effort over the past few months to present gay and lesbian Americans as defective, imperfect and in need of conversion. We call on right wing groups to immediately stop the ad campaign that is pumping lies into every community in this country...they create a climate and environment of intolerance and give license to those who seek to vent their rage or frustration on an entire community," said HRC Executive Director Elizabeth Birch at the vigil.

Several members of Congress attended the vigil including Senator Ted Kennedy, D-Mass., former Senator Alan Simpson, R-Wyo., and House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt, D-Mo. The law makers expressed their sorrow over Matthew's death and renewed calls for Congress to pass the Hate Crimes Prevention Act (HCPA).

"Hate crimes legislation needs to be passed now," said Gephardt. The minority Leader then led the crowd in a chant, "now, now, now."

Actresses Anne Heche, Ellen DeGeneres, Kristen Johnston, Third Rock from the Sun; Ellen's mom, Betty DeGeneres; actor Dan Butler, Frasier; and national civil rights leaders, also attended the rally.

"I can't stop crying. I am so devastated by this, I'm begging heterosexuals to see this as a wake-up call to please stem the hate. We shouldn't be asked to change who we are," said DeGeneres at the vigil.

Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was savagely attacked and left to die for up to 18 hours tied to a wooden fence outside Laramie, 30 miles northwest of Cheyenne. He died Monday morning in a hospital in Fort Collins Colorado.

When Shepard was initially found, last Thursday, he was unconscious and his skull had been smashed with a blunt object. Two motorcyclists who found his body said he looked "like a scarecrow" because of the way he was positioned on the fence. Prior to this fatal attack, he had recently been beaten twice and attributed those attacks to his openness about his sexuality.

The Human Rights Campaign is the nation's largest national lesbian and gay political organization, with members throughout the country, effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support, and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest, and safe at home, at work, and in the community.

By John Aravosis of Wired Strategies:
It was a clear, cool fall evening in Washington, DC as the candlelight vigil for Matthew Shepard began promptly at 7pm tonight (Oct. 14). The sun had just set over the Washington Monument, and the crowds were large, extending all the way up the steps of the Capitol and around the upper balcony. There were men, women, young, old, black, white, Latino and Asian. Many came with groups of friends, others with a lover or spouse. Many had green glow sticks, and many others candles. As the evening progresse d, there were politicians, movie stars, Matthew's best friends, and gay rights advocates - all assembled for an evening of remembrance, tears, and admittedly, anger.

Select quotes from various speakers:

Ellen Degeneres:
Ellen was great. She walked up to the podium and the crowd went wild. The first thing she said was something to the effect of: "And they thought I'd finally shut up." The crowd laughed, and then things became deadly serious. "I am so pissed off," Elle n began. "I can't stop crying." Her voice immediately broke, she looked at the crowd, caught her breath and said in a now-strained, softer and emotion-ladened voice: "This is what I was trying to stop - this is why I did what I did." It was a moving mo ment that brought Ellen's coming out experience into a new and suddenly much more serious light. I still get chills writing this.

She talked about the preachers who claim to speak for family values, but "when something like this happens, where are they?", she said. "I don't see full-page ads saying 'stop the hate, stop the violence.'" She then took on those who use the Bible to just anti-gay intolerance: "The Bible also was used to justify slavery." And she closed by noting that "everyone has the right to love." The crowd adored her.

Anne Heche:
Anne began by saying something like ""I am so proud to be Ellen Degeneres' wife." The crowd laughed. Anne focused her speech on the religious right and their conservative defenders in Congress. She talked about conservative religious organizations that are "taught to preach, bu t not to think." She told Republican Senate Leader Trent Lott, Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, and religious right leader Jerry Falwell that "we are all children of God." She criticized ex-gay groups who claim to cure gay people and try to make gays more like them: "I do not want to be like are the abomination in the eyes of my God....groups who are founded in hatred."

Joan Garry, Executive Director of GLAAD:
"Anyone who thinks that love needs to be cured has not experienced enough of it in their own lives."

Kerri Lobel, Executive Director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force:
Matthew's death "is about a society that devalues us." But his death will "spark a renewal of our spirit and our commitment to work for equality."

Elizabeth Birch, Executive Director of the Human Rights Campaign:
"This crime did not happen in a vacuum." Right-wing groups repeatedly say that gay men and lesbians are "defective, imperfect, in need of conversion." She then challenged the Family Research Council, Focus on the Family, and Christian Coalition to "imme diately stop this ad campaign." She closed by saying: "Let Matthew remind us that we have a long long way to go."

Dan Butler (Bulldog on Frasier):
"The glory of God is in everyone."

Kathy Najimi of Veronica's Closet sent a letter read by Kristen Johnston of 3rd Rock from the Sun:
"Right wing conservative groups are perpetrating lies, fear, and anger towards gays and lesbians....They turn their backs on hate inspired murders."

Congressman John Lewis (D-GA):
The former civil rights leader who walked with Martin Luther King gave a moving speech. "We must continue to stand up for what is right, what is fair, and what is just." "Maybe we came over here in different ships, but we're all in the same boat now." "Matthew is one who gave his life as those who gave their lives in the early days of the civil rights movement - his life must not be in vain."

Congresswoman Connie Morella (R-MD):
We must "take this tragedy and translate it into action."

Congressman Tom Campbell (R-CA):
"If others might live because he died, then truly he has not died."

Congressman Mark Foley (R-FL):
Referring to Congress, and their inaction on the federal hate crimes bill: "Why don't you all just shut up and pass the bill!" Noting Matthew's fluency in several languages, and his desire to work in a foreign embassy, he said of Matthew: "you are our be st ambassador for humanity." Foley then took on the family values crowd. "Stop trying to score political points" by attacking gay men and lesbians, he told the conservative Christian groups. For those who say they speak for family values, "gay men and women have families too!"

Presidential Adviser Virginia Apuzzo:
Apuzzo accused the religious right "pro-family" groups of promoting "lies, myths and distortions about our lives," and that their mistruths have "provided the rationale for violence and death." She noted that the President introduced the federal hate cri mes bill over one year ago, yet Congress has still not acted on it. With regards to Congress' foot-dragging on the legislation, Apuzzo said: "Whether or not they have the will - if they don't have the will to pass it, we don't have the will to send them back!"

One of the most moving moments of the evening was when Daniel, a 17 year old Latino boy took the podium. A year earlier he had been severely beaten by several boys at school, who yelled "Die you fucking faggot" as they kicked and punched him. Daniel' s only thought at the time were: "I am going to die." Soon thereafter, he tried to kill himself, reasoning that: "before they kill me, I am going to kill myself." Thanks to the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (SMYAL) in DC, Daniel now has a new lease on life.

An entertainer sang a beautiful version of one of Matthew's favorite songs with a line that went: "The only measure of your words and your deeds is the love that you leave behind when you're gone."

Additional speakers included: Senator Edward Kennedy (D-MA); DC Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton; House Democratic Leader Dick Gephardt (D-MO); former Senator Alan Simpson (R-WY); two of Matthew's best friends Alex and Walter; Rea Carey, Executive Direct or of the National Youth Advocacy Coalition; Craig Bowman, Executive Director of the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League; and many others.

OCTOBER 14, 1998

Wow! I don't know what it looks like from down there, but this is very impressive from up here. I stand before you, not as a representative of any organization, profession, or group. I stand before you as a gay man, a parent, a neighbor, and a third generation native son of Wyoming, the equality state. But more importantly, Alex and I stand before you as friends of Matt Shepard. Alex and I have been asked repeatedly to help people understand who Matt was.

I sat for over an hour, looking at this blank paper, afraid to put my pen to it, a multitude of random images flashing through my mind, images and memories of Matt.

It has taken several days for the shock to wear thin, and for the images of Matt to fight their way past the horrible image of his broken and battered body lying in that hospital bed. But Matt has made it back into my consciousness, past the horror, the shock, and the exhaustion. His smile dances before my eyes as I write.

All those who were graced with the gift of knowing Matt, know the smile I am talking about. Matt never smiled with just his mouth. His whole face and body would light up. His eyes would dance and his vibrancy and energy just radiated from his whole being. It never mattered where we were, when I would meet Matt, he would bounce up to me, throw his arms around me in a hug only Matt could give, and immediately start into some conversation that would quickly suck me in. And we were lost in whatever topic was on his mind when we bumped into each other. His insight, humor, and concern, all poured out, regardless of whether we were talking about world affairs, a class, a friend, or clothes and fashion. Throughout the conversation, Matt would pause, assume a very introspective posture, and take a draw from his cigarette, always careful to blow the smoke away from anyone sitting near. And I'd have to smile. It was at this moment that I'd see all the care that Matt put into his appearance, the way his hair looked, the way his clothes reflected his mood, the way he was sitting. I might point that out, and we would laugh and talk about presentation and fashion and wanting people to have a favorable first impression. Matt wanted people to know him and like him at a level far deeper than the superficial "small-talk" stage, but believed people judge each other with first impressions. Matt would be appalled that we are standing here in our everyday clothes instead of brand new suits.

When I say, Matt would bounce up to me, the image is crystal clear. Again, anyone who knew Matt knows what his "bounce" was like. We would talk and laugh about the way he walked. I'd remind him that he once told me he used to practice the way he walked, we'd laugh. He told me that his African American friend would tell him he walks "like a brother." Again, we'd laugh. Matt was very proud of that compliment. I'd tell him he was so skinny because he used up too much energy with his "bounce."

But there are other images that also present themselves. Matt showing up at my door, and asking "Am I bothering you?" His eyes were not dancing, and he was not offering his energetic hug. His eyes had the look of a little boy who has just seen a scary movie. He'd come in and ask if he could "just hang." He'd have his backpack and school books with him. He'd either sit and watch TV for a little while, or take his books out and start doing homework. After a short time he'd start talking about hearing someone call out "faggot," or hearing someone talk about "queers." We'd talk about how this touched Matt at the core of his heart, and that he needed to feel safe again. Then he'd just hang around, regrouping, and trying to harden himself. Something that never came easy for Matt, because he was not the type of person to "be hard."

After some time, the Matt with the dancing eyes would start coming back and he'd be off to class or to meet a friend for coffee.

Like Alex and myself, Matt was also a native son of Wyoming. A gentle, vibrant, loving young man who loved Wyoming and had returned home to go to school. Just a week before he was so savagely tortured and murdered, Matt told me how happy he was to be back home, how comfortable he felt in Laramie, and how safe he felt there compared to the big city. I was so happy to hear that because I had encouraged Matt to come home.

Matt's sense of safety was betrayed by every legislator in Wyoming and this nation who has opposed or voted against hate crime legislation over the last years. These men and women represented the leadership of our state and Nation, and sent a clear and tangible message to the people of our state, and to the children of our nation that it is okay to "Hate Gays and Lesbians." Through opposition to hate crime legislation which clearly states we will not tolerate hate, our leadership has sanctioned an atmosphere of ignorance, prejudice, oppression, and hatred. Our children have been, and are still listening and watching. Alex and I stand here before you because some of our children heard that message and interpreted it to mean it is okay to savagely torture and murder one of our gay children.

I will never be able to understand the thinking of a person who could do something so horrific to another human being. But these two young men did not in any way try to hide their crime. They did not dump Matt's battered body in some ditch hoping the snow would hide it until next Spring. They strung him up on a fence, displaying him like a trophy, announcing to the community and world what they had done. This display was an attempt to intimidate and subjugate Wyoming's gay community and send the message that all gays and lesbians deserve such violence.

Those are the actions of people who think somebody, somewhere, is going to applaud what they did. Those are the actions of people who believe they are living in an environment that would protect them, and allow them to get away with their actions. I hope they are shocked by the response of the people of Laramie, Wyoming and this nation. But only time will tell whether on not they were correct in their assessment of the environment in Wyoming and the nation.

Alex and I are here because our lives have been shattered by the violent murder of our dear gentle friend. But this is not just about Matt. This is not just about Wyoming. All of us know about the daily physical attacks on gays and lesbians throughout this nation. We also know about the minute by minute verbal and emotional violence against gays and lesbians everywhere. But this is not just about gay and lesbian issues. We are here because of hatred and violence. The enemy is not heterosexuals, the enemy is oppression. Oppression against all vulnerable groups and populations.

There are still some in our government attempting to rationalize their stance of opposition to hate crime legislation. They do not seem to understand that hate crimes are directed at a person because of that person's membership in a particular group, and the hate crime serves to intimidate and subjugate the entire group. We will never know, one way or another, whether hate crime legislation would have prevented this savage attack on our friend, Matt. We all know that laws in themselves do not prevent crime. But laws do voice the "heart and will" of the people.

I look around at the outpouring of love and compassion that has been expressed by the people of Wyoming and the entire nation during this time of horror and tragedy. These are images I have always had of the people of this nation. Loving, friendly, compassionate, caring, and willing to come to the aid of others. Have I been so blind, or na´ve? Have I been so wrong about the people of this nation?

We stand at a moment in time which will define who we are as individuals, as states, and as a nation. It is time to look in the mirror and then look in the eyes of our children and our neighbors and say this is who we are and that is who we are not. No words are going to convince anyone of anything. Words are cheap. We will define ourselves, and be judged by our actions or by our lack of action.

I cannot stand on these steps to the Capitol and demand that our leaders commit to the eradication of hatred and violence if I am not willing to do the same. I am not talking about a commitment to just gay rights. I am talking about a commitment to actively fight for the rights of all people.

As a white, middle classed, formally educated, temporarily abled man, I must look at and recognize my position of privilege and use that position to actively fight for the rights of all races, for the rights of those who have been denied access to the economic opportunities of our nation, for the rights of those who are denied access to a quality education, for the rights of the disabled, for the rights of women, and for the rights of every other human being. I must actively work to eradicate all forms of oppression on a personal and public level. Only then can I demand that our political leaders do the same.

Governor Geringer, President Clinton, and the leadership of Congress have an opportunity to lead all of us into a new era. They can help us look in the mirror, stand up straight and tall, and send a loud and clear message to our children, our neighbors, and the world that we are not a people filled with hate. Congress can pass Hate Crime legislation that clearly states we do not sanction and we will not tolerate hate and that we believe in, and stand for, equality. Anything less will be a confirmation that we are the hateful, ignorant, and barbaric people the world must see us as now. If we fail to act, we allow the actions of Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney to speak for us.

Alex and I are here because our dear and gentle friend, Matthew Shepard, was brutally tortured and murdered. But we all know we are here for more than that.

Matt once told me that someday he was going to be famous and that he was going to make a difference in the area of human rights. When I look out at all of you and reflect on what is going on in the building behind us, I have to think he had no idea how true that statement would be.

Matt is never going to hop off my couch and bounce off to class or to meet a friend, ever again. But I have to believe that his eyes are dancing as he looks down and sees how he has touched the heart and soul of the people of this nation.

But please remember, no matter what good may come from all of this, THE PRICE WAS TOO HIGH.

The price was too high.

Please be safe.

Thank you.

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