This evening, Judy Shepard addressed a near capacity crowd in the auditorium at Salt Lake’s Main Library.
I’ve seen Judy Shepard speak before and she struck me then and again this evening as a very down to earth person who is speaking from the heart. She began her statement with a quick recap of why she wrote her book The Meaning of Matthew. She said something interesting – in the family Matthew was know as Matt. Only to the world outside the family is he Matthew. After about 5 to 10 minutes, she opened the floor to questions.
About 45 minutes in, a man rose and asked a question that amounted to repeating a current popular right-wing lie – Matthew Shepard was killed because his killers were high and wanted to rob him; his sexual orientation was irrelevant. Mrs. Shepard refuted the claim – pointing out that in one of the killer’s confessions, he admitted they acted because of Shepard’s sexual orientation; the other, in his statement in court, admitted the same. Neither men tested positive for drugs or alcohol after Matthew’s murder. The interlocutor asserted at this point that she was lying and doing a disservice to history by lying about the reasons for her son’s murder. To my eyes, Judy Shepard appeared visibly upset by the man’s accusations. He claimed to be relying on a report from 20/20; she pointed out that the 20/20 actually ignored the evidence and testimony of both men. She did not deny the men had a history of drug abuse. She pointed out the facts; the man refused to accept them.
It’s not just a lack of civility; the man asking the questions was posing as a daring advocate of truth who was trying to set the record straight. He asserted that Judy Shepard is and has deliberately distorting what happened to her son in service of a political agenda. It’s a typical right wing pose these days – repeat lies with passion as if you are somehow the only person who knows the truth. Let me be blunt: this man’s motives may not have been malicious but his actions were.
Matthew Shepard’s killers had no reason to lie; there was no gain for them to lie and in fact had the revisionist theory been accurate, they might have gotten reduced sentences since they could have argued diminished capacity. The revisionist theory is nothing more than a convenient lie that right wing opponents of gay rights have latched onto because it serves their political purposes – namely opposing any legislation or political movement that treats gays and lesbians as citizens with equal rights to heterosexuals.