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Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Statement by
Judy & Dennis Shepard

Opposing the Federal Marriage Amendment

"Anyone that believes that the hatred behind this amendment is any different than the hatred that was the cause of our son's murder is fooling themselves and doesn't understand what is happening every day in our society."

After viewing the President's press conference on Monday and the Senate debate the past two (2) days regarding the so-called "Marriage Protection Amendment", we feel compelled to respond to those who would write discrimination into the Constitution.

It was hatred directed towards the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) community that personally harmed our family and took away our son, Matthew, not the love and commitment expressed each and every day between same-sex couples. Love is the foundation for marriage, not a threat to it. That love should be celebrated by society, not diminished. The love and strength of the GLBT community and their allies that helped us significantly during the difficult times of the past seven (7) years now sustains us and encourages us to continue the fight for GLBT rights. As a society, we should encourage and support our fellow man as the GLBT community has done for our family.

It saddens us that the President and Senate Majority Leadership, in the guise of protecting the institution of marriage, are using the lives and jeopardizing the futures of GLBT individuals and their families for political gain leading up to the 2006 mid-term elections. In their opinion, marriage between a man and a woman needs to be protected or the world as they know it will collapse along with modern society. It ain't so. During the course of our 33-year marriage, the only time our family has needed protection is when hatred and discrimination took the life of our son Matthew.

This is the same type of regressive thinking that led to prohibition (which failed and the Constitutional amendment was repealed) and racial discrimination and segregation (which also failed). Will modern civilization disappear if same sex marriages are recognized as having the same equal rights as those of opposite sex marriages? Only in the closed minds of those currently in political power, especially the older generation, who think it is their duty and God-given right to tell the younger generation what is right and what is wrong; only in the closed minds of those in political power who are worried about the fact that the 'younger generation' is more open-minded and accepting of diversity of all kinds, including same-sex marriage; only in the closed minds of those in political power who are worried about losing an election over other domestic and international policy failures; and only in the closed minds of those fundamentalist church groups who are attempting to purchase a Constitutional amendment through political votes and donations to justify their existence. As far as the President and Senate Majority Leadership are concerned, it's okay to take away the rights of a significant portion of taxpaying, law abiding, God-fearing Americans, as long as it isn't them losing those rights, privileges, and, possibly, families.

Since when is it wrong for a gay American to want to fight for, and protect, the country of birth by serving in the military? Where is the threat to our family and the families of other Americans? Our biggest threats come from an ineffective President and Senate Majority Leadership that can't conclude a war, can't improve the current state of the educational system, can't provide decent health care for every American, can't reform the Social Security and Medicare system to prevent them from going broke, can't protect our borders, can't reduce the debt, and can't bring back the world-wide goodwill, integrity, and reputation that America held before the second Gulf War.

Everything is a 'can't' so the obvious solution to these problems is to focus on an issue that half the country believes is a non-issue.- gay marriage. Why? It turns attention away from the real problems and keeps the religious right happy that something is going to be done. It's so obvious that an Amendment will not pass. But it allows the President and Senate Majority Leadership a so-called 'photo-op' - an opportunity to put on a public display of good intentions, letting them pretend to do what is good for America in order to reach for those all important votes and donations,

Anyone who believes the hatred behind this amendment is any different than the hatred that led to our son's murder is fooling themselves and doesn't understand what is happening every day in our society. Instead of trying to enshrine discrimination into the U.S. Constitution for a threat that does not exist, let's spend the time more wisely by building and supporting rights for all citizens to work, play, marry, raise families and live in a country that was founded on the proposition that all citizens are accorded equal rights.

Judy & Dennis Shepard are the parents of Matthew Shepard, who was killed in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in 1998. Matthew's death touched the hearts and souls of millions across this country and ignited a media focus on the issue of hate in our society. The Matthew Shepard Foundation, founded by Judy & Dennis shortly after Matthew's death, seeks to "Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion & Acceptance" through its varied educational programs and by continuing to tell Matthew's story. For more information, please visit www.MatthewShepard.org.

This statement has been published with the express permission of Judy and Dennis Shepherd's representatives.

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