Monday, October 15, 2012

LGBT History Month: Matthew Sheppard

Image Source, edited by Diana *BunnyKissd* Bukowski

October 12, 1998, after five days in intensive care, Matthew Shepard succumbed to the beating he had received the night of October 6-7th.  He was only 21 years old.

Born December 1, 1976, in Casper, Wyoming, Sheppard went to school there until his senior year, when his father was hired to work in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, and he went to school in Switzerland.  After graduation, he attended college at the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where at a bar he first met Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson.

On the night of October 6th, Sheppard asked McKinney for a ride home.  The three boys got in the front seat of McKinney's pickup, with Henderson driving.  When Sheppard reached over and grabbed McKinney's leg, McKinney hit him with a gun.  He asked for Sheppard's wallet and money and even though he got it, he continued to beat him and told Henderson to drive him to a secluded area.

The two tied Sheppard to a split rail fence and McKinney continued to pistol whip him.  Henderson tried to stop him at one point, but was hit with the gun as well; so he went back to the truck leaving McKinney to give Sheppard what he feared were the fatal blows.  Then the two left the scene to get in another violent fight which led to their initial arrest.

But Sheppard wasn't dead.  Left to die, tied to the fence post, through the cold October night, it was 18 hours later when a cyclist rode by and mistook the comatose Sheppard for a scarecrow.  He was deemed too injured to operate on, and he was put on life support in in tensive care at Poudre Valley Hospital, in Fort Collins, Colorado where he died 5 days later at 12:53am.

Matthew Sheppard's story didn't end there though.  Although McKinney and Henderson went to jail for their crimes, they pleaded the gay panic defense, that they were driven to temporary insanity by Sheppard's alleged sexual advances, they they only planned to rob him, not kill him.  The brutality of Matthew's death led to requests that new legislation be passed that would identify attacks motivated by victim identity as hate crimes.

It took 11 years, but on October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the Matthew Sheppard Act into law, which "expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability."


Also this month:

~ October is also National Bullying Prevention Month.

~ October 10th was Unity Day; wear orange to show your support and remind others about the importance of bullying prevention.

~ October 11th was National Coming Out Day when we celebrate coming out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender or as an ally. See the Human Rights Campaign website for resources on coming out.

~ October 19th is Spirit Day; wear purple on this day to support LGBT youth & stand up against bullying.

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