Fighting bias-motivated crimes

The mother of the man whose hate crime death prompted national awareness and part of the “Hate Crimes Prevention Act” was in Austin on Thursday.

Judy Shepard joined Austin leaders and members of the L.G.B.T.Q. community to talk about the fight against bias-motivated crimes in Central Texas.

Judy’s son Matthew was beaten and left to die in a field in Wyoming almost twenty years ago. Immediately after, she and her husband Dennis started the Matthew Shepard Foundation to fight against hate crimes. At Thursday's panel, law enforcement officers, educators, activists, and legislators learned about how to better protect their communities from bias-motivated crimes.

Violence is still happening to the LGBT community,” Shepard says, adding, “crimes against the Transgender Community has exponentially increased. It's very important to talk about this message, it's not something that has stopped and I want to remind people that that is what hate looks like. You lose loved ones and you don't have a family and it's devastating, as a community we can change that.”

Organizers of the event say the Matthew Shepard Foundation chose to hold the forum in Austin because of the strides the city has made to better protect citizens from bias-motivated crimes. “We are not completely perfect yet,” says Mike Crumrine, President of the Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Union, adding, “we have not answered the issues but we've started the dialogue and we've reached out into the community and we've told individuals, not just in words but in practice, that you matter.”

The panelists at the forum say they hope the people who attended will take what they learned back to their communities and continue the conversation to inspire change.