Through out history, there have been events both joyous and tragic that have altered the lives of millions. The ending of WWII, the treat of nuclear war, assai nation of President Kennedy, and the fall of Saigon just to name a few. On October of 1998 in a small town in Wyoming, the murder of a young man sent shockwaves throughout the community, the nation, and the world. Matthew Sheppard’s vicious murder was a huge turning point for the rights of gays and lesbians all over. However, for those who knew Matthew, it was a huge loss of a son, brother, and friend. Now for the first time since Matthew's death, his mother Judy Sheppard writes about her son in her memoir "The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie and a World Transformed''. She talks of Matthew growing up; the sweet loving little boy who cared for others; the confused teenager searching for his identity; and the twenty-one year old victim turned martyr. Ms. Sheppard's book is nothing more than a tribute to Matthew and how the events eleven years ago changed her life.
This past Wednesday, President Obama signed into law the Matthew Sheppard & James Bryd Jr Hate Prevention Act. He told an audience and reporters that signing the bill into law will “strengthen the protections against crimes based on the color of your skin, the faith in your heart, or the place of your birth.” He strongly afirmed his position against hate crimes “Because no one in America should ever be afraid to walk down the street holding the hands of the person they love.” Among those who were in the audience were both Judy and Denis Sheppard and the family of the late Senator Edward M. Kennedy. He had championed the legislation for years before his death not too long ago.
Fourty years back, the thought of an African-American becoming President was unthinkable. The notion for equal rights for all races including gays and lesbians might seem like wishful thinking, but as history has showed us that anything is possible. All human are created equal in the eyes of our creater (be it Jesus, Allah, Buddah). Speaking of which, I would like to say something to all the ultra-religious folks and others who hold ill will towards gays and lesbians: The next time you open your mouth in protest, remember this little saying from grade school. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything! Didn't God himself say ''Love Thy Neighbor?'' Or how about ''Thou Shall Not Kill?'' Your hatred towards people who live a different lifestyle puts a bad name on yourselfs and your creator. So in retrospect, did Matthew Sheppard died in vain? No, he did not.