In Memory of Matt Shepard

October 12th, 2009

Inspired by “Mother Bears Scars of Grief in Limelight She Never Wanted” (Washington Post 10/09/09) regarding Matt Shepard, who was beaten, tied to a fence, and left to die on 10/12/98 in Laramie, Wyoming because he was gay. See also “House Votes to Add Sexual Orientation to Law on Hate Crimes” (Washington Post 10/09/09) about the bill which bears Matt’s name. The bill passed the House 10/08 and will be voted on by the Senate soon. President Obama has stated that he will then sign the bill into law (unlike his predecessor, who squelched it with a veto threat).


Matthew Shepard was a student at the University of Wyoming.

His parents described him as “optimistic and accepting.”

He could relate to anyone and had a passion for equality.

Too bad that his killers didn’t agree.


It was a Tuesday night,

Matt went out to a bar.

Two men offered him

A ride home in their car.


But instead of going home

The took him out of town.

They beat him severely

And tied him down.


They took him to a remote place

And pistol whipped his bloody face.

They beat him so hard with that pistol

That it finally smashed his skull.


Matt was left with no defense

As they tied him to a fence.

The robbed him, and left him there to die,

Then went home to work out an alibi.


After 18 hours, Matt was discovered,

Ragged and with his own blood covered.

He was in a coma but still alive,

When help did finally arrive.


He was taken to the hospital in intensive care.

His family and friends gathered there.

With brainstem damage, cranial fractures, and severe facial laceration,

Doctors said he was too severely hurt for an operation.


He died five days later

When his vital functions ceased.

On Monday 10/12/98 at 12:53 am,

Matt was pronounced deceased.


Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson

Were caught and accused

Of killing Matt Shepard

For $20 and a pair of shoes.


Yes, they had robbed him

Was their confession.

Matt’s wallet, shoes, and the bloody gun

Were in their possession.


At trial, the killers invoked the gay panic defense.

Claiming temporary insanity due to Matt’s alleged advance.

The boys tried to get their girlfriends to lie

But finally the two girls did testify.


The girls said the boys went out with a plan.

They specifically wanted to rob a gay man.

They went to the Fireside Lounge to find one,

And the rest, it seems, was just for fun.


McKinney’s girlfriend Kristen said during an an interview session

That the boys beat Matt to ” teach him a lesson.”

She and their friend Tom said McKinney was bi.

Could his self-loathing be why Matt had to die?


The following year, Henderson pleaded guilty

And testified against McKinney to avoid the death penalty.

McKinney also pleaded guilty and copped a plea.

They were given two life sentences in the State Penitentiary.


At Mathew’s funeral and during his murderers’ trial

An anti-gay church held protests to express their revile.

Carrying signs to express what their “faith” did compel,

That “God Hates Fags” and Matt Shepard rots in Hell.”


At the time, state hate crime law didn’t to gays pertain

And attempts to change the law afterwards were in vain.

Federal statutes also had no such guarantee,

A lack President Clinton tried to remedy.


Attempts in ‘99 and 2000 ended in defeat,

As hate crimes to other things took a back seat.

Then legislation was introduced again in ‘07

With 171 co-sponsors (some bipartisan).


The Act passed both houses and seemed to be set

But then Bush killed it with a veto threat.

Dems tried again without success the next year,

But things didn’t really get going until Obama got here.

The Matthew Shepard Act was re-introduced

(It’s chances much better with the number of Republicans reduced).

Still, the Grand Old Party sought to oppose and delay

Any law that offered protection for being gay.


In April 2009 during the contentious debate

Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) said Matt’s murder had nothing to do with hate.

Calling Matt’s murder a hate crime was a “hoax,” she said

While Matthew’s mom Judy listened from the gallery overhead.


The bill survived multiple attacks and passed the House.

And is in the Senate moving towards passage.

Obama will sign it, making it law,

And sending a powerful message.


Mathew Shepherd died 11 years ago today.

He died because he was born gay.

The hatred that killed him still exists today.

Let’s hope it in our lifetime goes away.

Until then,

When homophobia is crime’s source,

The Matthew Shepard Act we’ll enforce.


He died of bigotry,

A victim of cruelty.

This is his legacy.

This is his victory.


Here’s Rep. Foxx on the House floor saying that the claim that Matt’s murder was a hate crime is a “hoax”.



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2 Responses to “In Memory of Matt Shepard”

  1. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Civil + Right = Civil Right Says:

    […] Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act today. See also our earlier posts about Matt Shepard and the hate crimes bill. Watch the video below of the signing […]

  2. Newsericks » Blog Archive » Homophobia (or, Why Some Straight Men Really Hate Gays) Says:

    […] possible explanation (and one that I’ve referred to before) is that at least some (and maybe many) of the “straight” men that act this way are in fact […]

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