Casper Parents of Murdered Gay Student Matthew Shepard Condemn U.S. Attorney Barr
The parents of Matthew Shepard, the gay University of Wyoming student from Casper murdered near Laramie in 1998, recently castigated U.S. Attorney William Barr at an event commemorating the 10th anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Judy and Dennis Shepard could not attend the Oct. 16 event at the U.S. Department of Justice, but sent a letter posted on the Matthew Shepard Foundation’s blog calling Barr a hypocrite to commemorate the law while the Department of Justice has argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that transgender employees could be fired.
Cynthia Deitle, the foundation's programs and operations director, read the statement in which the Shepards recounted how their son was murdered and their efforts to expand coverage in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 for gender, gender identity, disability, and sexual orientation. Many guests at the ceremony, including Department of Justice employees, rose for a standing ovation after she finished reading.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law, the Shepards wrote. "It gave federal prosecutors and state district attorneys additional options to pursue to prosecute hate crimes. It also provided additional funding, if needed, for local and state law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of alleged hate crimes."
They wrote Barr said in July that he was "deeply concerned about the rise in hate crimes and political violence that we have seen over the past decade."
However, they added that Barr could take a stand to disavow and and condemn people who foment hate, but so far he has not done so.
Meanwhile, Solicitor General Noel Francisco recently argued before the Supreme Court that the law should allow the legalized firing of transgender employees.
"Mr. Barr, you cannot have it both ways," the Shepards wrote. "If you believe that employers should have the right to terminate transgender employees, just because they are transgender, then you believe they are lesser than and not worthy of protection. If so, you need not invite us to future events at the Department of Justice that are billed as celebrating the law that protects these same individuals from hate crimes. Either you believe in equality for all or you don’t. We do not honor our son by kowtowing to hypocrisy."
Later, a Justice Department spokeswoman took issue with the Shepards’ statement, telling CNN that Francisco was not arguing for anti-LGBTQ discrimination as a “matter of policy,” but rather saying that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 does not address that issue in its section on sex discrimination.
Congress would have to change the law, not the courts, the spokeswoman said.