REMEMBERING MATTHEW SHEPARD

A little over one year after Matthew Shepard was finally laid to rest, the Washington National Cathedral and the Matthew Shepard Foundation are dedicating a plaque in his honor. His parents Judy and Dennis will join us to remember their son.

Aired on November 12, 2019.

TRANSCRIPT

> YOU KNOW WHO MATTHEW SHEPHERD WAS.

IF NOT, YOU SHOULD.

LET ME REMIND YOU.

HE WAS A 21-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE STUDENT WHO IN 1998 WAS TORTURED AND BRUTALLY BEATEN JUST FOR BEING GAY.

TIED TO A FENCE AND LEFT TO DIE, HE WAS DISCOVERED 18 HOURS LATERS IN BELOW FREEZING TEMPERATURES.

MATTHEW SUCCUMBED TO HIS INJURIES ONE WEEK LATER.

THIS HORRIFIC MURDER WOULD BECOME A CATALYST FOR REWRITING THE NATION'S HATE CRIME LAWS AMONG OTHER THINGS.

HIS PARENTS CONTINUE THEIR FIGHT TO, QUOTE, ERASE HATE.

I'M DELIGHTED THEY'RE JOINING US NOW.

THANK YOU.

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

LET'S START AT THE GIPING, 20 YEARS AGO.

THIS IS HARD.

I REMEMBER COVERING THE STORY.

FOR YOU, JUST THE NOTION OF 20 YEARS HAVING PASSED MUST BE SO DIFFICULT.

BUT LET'S TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU'VE DONE IN THOSE 20 YEARS.

I MENTIONED THE FOUNDATION.

AND LET ME START WITH YOU, WHAT WAS THE IDEA BEHIND THE FOUNDATION WHEN YOU STARTED IT?

WE RECEIVED A LOT OF CORRESPONDENCE WHILE MATT WAS STILL IN THE HOSPITAL AND SOON AFTER HE PASSED FROM PARENTS OF GAY CHILDREN ASKING US TO USE OUR VOICE AS ACCEPTING PARENTS TO SHOW OTHER PARENTS YOUR KIDS ARE YOUR KIDS NO MATTER WHAT AND WE HAD LOST OUR SON TO A HORRIFIC ACT OF VIOLENCE.

BUT OTHER FAMILIES HAVE THE OPPORTUNITY TO BRING THEIR CHILDREN AND WELCOME THEIR CHILDREN BACK INTO THEIR FAMILIES.

THAT WAS WHAT GOT US STARTED.

WE FELT LIKE WE OWED IT TO MATT TO DO THAT.

IT MORPHED INTO MANY THINGS SINCE THEN BUT THAT'S WHAT STARTED IT.

ONE OF THE THINGS -- WE TALKED ABOUT IT HERE ON THE PROGRAM IN THE PAST -- THAT'S THE LARAMY PROJECT.

THAT WAS A PLAY IN THE TECTONIC THEATER.

THEY WENT OUT TO LARAMIE AND INTERVIEWED PEOPLE JUST TO GET THEIR REACTIONS.

FROM THAT, THEY DEVELOPED THE LARAMIE PROJECT WHICH IS THE SECOND-MOST PRODUCED PLAY IN THE UNITED STATES BOTH FROM HIGH SCHOOLS, COLLEGES, ADULT THEATER GROUPS, ET CETERA.

AND THEN THEY ACTUALLY WENT BACK TEN YEARS LATER AND DID THE SECOND PLAY CALLED 'LARAMIE PROJECT: TEN YEARS LATER' AND WENT BACK AND FOUND OUT IF ATTITUDES HAD CHANGED AND IF IDEAS AND ACCEPTANCE HAD GOTTEN BETTER.

I HEARD YOU TALK ABOUT THE FACT THAT YOU'RE CONCERNED ABOUT THE CURRENT POLITICAL ENVIRONMENT AND THE IMPACT IT COULD HAVE ON WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING IN MATTHEW'S MEMORY.

WHY ARE YOU CONCERNED?

WELL, WE WERE MAKING SUCH PROGRESS UNDER THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION NOT ONLY IN LEGISLATIVE AND LEGAL SENSE BUT IN A MORAL SENSE, I THINK OF IT.

PEOPLE BEGAN TO UNDERSTAND AND ACCEPT THE GAY COMMUNITIES AND ALL MINORITIES AS UNDERSTANDING.

WE'RE ALL JUST TRYING TO LIVE OUR LIVES JUST THE SAME AS I SAID, WE'RE JUST THE SAME.

TO FEEL SAFE AND SECURE, LOVED, AND BE LOVED IN RETURN.

REALLY NO DIFFERENCE.

OBAMA PUT IN MANY THINGS WITH EXECUTIVE ORDER OR SOME KIND OF REGULATION TO PROTECT LGBT STUDENTS AND WORKERS THAT NOW HAVE BEEN TURNED BACK.

AND I'M WORRIED THAT NOT ONLY ARE THEY DOING IT IN A REGULATORY SENSE BUT THEY'RE DOING IT IN THE WAY THEY TALK ABOUT THE GAY COMMUNITY AND NOT JUST THE GAY COMMUNITY BUT IMMIGRANTS, WOMEN, PEOPLE OF COLOR.

IT JUST FEELS LIKE EVERYTHING IS TOPSY-TURVY NOW LIKE WE'VE LITERALLY GONE BACK TO THE 50s WHERE THERE WAS NO ACCEPTANCE OF ANYBODY BUT WHITE CHRISTIAN MEN.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO DO ABOUT THAT?

I SHOULD INTERJECT BECAUSE I SAW A COMMENT FROM SOMEBODY FROM THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION SAYING IF YOU LOOK TO CANDIDATE TRUMP'S COMMENTS, HE AT ONE POINT IN TIME SAID LGBTQ FOLKS WILL DO WELL UNDER MY ADMINISTRATION.

YEAH.

AND THEY'VE SAID GIVE THE ADMINISTRATION A CHANCE.

SO, THAT'S THE RESPONSE YOU'VE HEARD FROM THEM.

WHAT DO YOU THINK WE NEED TO DO?

THAT WAS TRUMP'S PROMISE BUT IT WASN'T VICE PRESIDENT PENCE'S PROMISE OR ATTORNEY GENERAL SESSIONS' PROMISE OR REX TILLERSON'S PROMISE OR ANYBODY IN THE CABINET'S PROMISE.

THEY HAVE THE DISTINCT RECORD OF BEING ANTI-GAY, THE VICE PRESIDENT IN PARTICULAR.

TRUMP MAY HAVE JUST TALKED A LOT.

BUT HIS FOLKS AROUND HIM HAD OPINIONS AND THEY'VE BEEN GIVING THOSE OPINIONS AND THOSE APPOINTMENT RECOMMENDATIONS TO HIM.

SO --

THIS IS A DIFFICULT QUESTION.

BUT SOMETIMES I THINK IT CAN BE HELPFUL.

IF YOU HAD SOME TIME TO SIT DOWN WITH MEMBERS OF THE ADMINISTRATION WHO YOU FEEL HAVE NOT BEEN DOING WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING, WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO THEM?

I WOULDN'T TALK TO THEM BECAUSE THEY ARE -- THEIR MIND'S ALREADY MADE UP.

THEY'RE NOT GOING TO CHANGE.

THAT'S WHY THEY'RE IN THERE.

WE HAD EXPERIENCE WITH TALKING TO THEM, SESSIONS AND PENCE WHEN THEY WERE IN CONGRESS AND TRYING TO DO THE HATE CRIME LEGISLATION.

THEY'RE SO ATTACHED TO THIS IDEA THAT THE GAY COMMUNITY IS LESS THAN AND NOT DESERVING OF THAT IT WAS JUST -- IT WAS POINTLESS.

NOW, IN A LARGER SENSE, YES, THEY SAY PEOPLE ARE EQUAL AND DESERVE, YOU KNOW, SAFETY AND ALL THAT.

BUT WHEN THEY TRY TO SAY YOU CAN STILL FIRE THEM FROM THEIR JOBS OR THAT GAY MARRIAGE SHOULDN'T BE ALLOWED, THAT'S NOT SENDING A MESSAGE OF INCLUSIVENESS THAT THIS COUNTRY SHOULD BE.

I'M NOT SURE THAT WE COULD IN ANY WAY CHANGE THEIR MIND.

THERE IS A SEGMENT OF SOCIETY THAT JUST IS NOT ON BOARD WITH THAT.

HOPEFULLY THE CONVERSATION THAT YOU'RE DRIVING WITH CONTINUE.

AND WE'LL GET WHERE WE NEED TO BE.

WE HOPE SO.

I WANT TO THANK YOU BOTH FOR SPENDING TIME.

WE APPRECIATE WHAT YOU'VE BEEN DOING.

YOU BOTH BE WELL.

THANKS.

> BEFORE WE LET YOU GO TONIGHT, LET ME TELL YOU ABOUT A WONDERFUL EXTENSION TO 'METROFOCUS,' OUR NEW TWICE-WEEKLY PODCAST WITH ME AS YOUR HOST.

ON IT, WE'LL GET TO EXPLORE IN-DEPTH CONVERSATIONS THAT ARE A LITTLE LESS FILTERED THAN THEY ARE ON TELEVISION AND A LOT MORE INTIMATE.

ON THE PODCAST, I'LL TALK TO AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT SET OF GUESTS WITH AN ENTIRELY DIFFERENT ATTITUDE.

THE PRICE OF JOINING THIS PODCAST, COMPLETE WITH NEW YORKERS FROM THE STREETS TO CITY HALL AND FROM WALL STREET TO BROADWAY, ABSOLUTELY FREE.

SO, HEAD ON OVER TO ITUNES OR SOUND CLOUD TO JOIN ME IN THIS ECLECTIC MIX OF PERSONALITIES AS WE EXPLORE OUR CITY WITH UNIQUE 'METROFOCUS.'

FRESH NEW CONTENT EVERY TUESDAY AND THURSDAY.

I'LL SEE YOU THERE.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by James and Merryl Tisch, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, Bernard and Irene Schwartz, Rosalind P. Walter, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Janet Prindle Seidler, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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