Matthew Shepard- 15 Years Later

Hard to believe that it’s been 15 years. I still remember the horror, the fear, the nearness of it all.

I remember thinking, “This could happen to any of us. This could happen to me.”

And fear ruled my heart for a longer time than it might have had this not happened.

From The Matthew Shepard Foundation:

MatthewAt 12:53AM on Monday, October 12, 1998, Matthew Shepard died surrounded by his family.

15 years later, we all have the opportunity to be Matthew’s family and remind the world of what hate can do.

Today, we ask you to join us in this work because we, as individuals, must stand up by the millions and say that we will not live in a world with hate.

 

Catholic Bishop: If You Want To Support Gays, Become Protestants

Originally posted (under a different headline) by newwaysministryblog
Sr. Jeannine Gramick speaking with Bishop Thomas Paprocki

An event last Friday that included Sr. Jeannine Gramick, the co-founder of New Ways Ministry, highlighted just how supportive Catholics are of marriage equality as the bishops play defense to support their position.

For over two hours at an event hosted by Robert Blair Kaiser and the Jesuit Alumni of Arizona, Sr. Gramick exchanged views with Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, Illinois, in front of an audience.

The National Catholic Reporter reported on the event, where Bishop Paprocki attacked  the “gay activist lobby” in his opening remarks and denigrated the attention given to the murder of Matthew Shepard in 1998 as evidence of media bias. He posited that if marriage equality passes, then “everything should be OK” in regard to any sexual practice or activity.

Alternatively, Sr. Gramick spoke of the positive changes occurring around LGBT issues, including her personal conversion that has led to nearly four decades of ministry with gay and lesbian people. The article continues:

“Gramick reflected on changes in her own attitudes, attitudes of the public and attitudes of the church hierarchy. She said more and more church leaders are moving toward support of at least civil unions.

“Referring to Paprocki’s remark that morality cannot be based on polls, she said, ‘We may not legislate on the basis of polls, but they tell us what people are thinking.’

“She said polls show Catholics’ opinions have moved from opposition to same-sex marriage to approval in a short time because nearly everyone has a gay friend, family member or business associate.”

Indicative of these shifting views, the question period was solely aimed at Bishop Paprocki’s opposition to LGBT rights. During remarks by the bishop, a member of the audience, Anne Gray, even yelled out, “That’s insulting” and followed-up with a question:

 “In response to a question from Kaiser, Paprocki said the church would love to welcome gay people but is forced into a defensive position by ‘activists pushing an agenda.’ That set off Gray, who has a gay son, again.

“‘Here I am,’ she said. ‘The big scary gay agenda…My son is a perfect human being. There is nothing intrinsically disordered about him. I know because I am his mother.’…

” ‘You need to listen to mothers,’ she said.”

Another questioner offered her personal experience of supporting lesbian family members and Paprocki made the suggestion that she leave the church to do so:

“One of the youngest people in the room said she was a devout Catholic, but when her aunt and sister told her they were gay, she was put on the spot. She asked Paprocki if she could remain a good Catholic and still support her family members in their desires to form lifelong relationships.

” ‘It is a struggle to be a good Catholic while supporting gay marriage,’ the bishop said. ‘It strains your relationship with the church.’

“He said those who oppose the church on the issue should become Protestants. ‘They do a lot of good things too,’ he said.

This is the latest instance where Catholics supportive of LGBT equality are making their voices heard to the Church’s hierarchy, including Sr. Gramick who recently confronted the famously anti-gay Cardinal Turkson of Ghana. We applaud the many people whose efforts contributed to making American Catholics the leading religious group advocating for equal marriage rights!

–Bob Shine, New Ways Ministry

Quite a different approach to the Pope’s “Welcome All” message last week….

Wyoming: “The Inequality State”

Wyoming’s latest opportunity to prove that it’s state motto is even partially true has dissolved.

The “Equality State” has rejected even domestic partnerships for same-sex partners after bringing it to the House floor yesterday. From the Casper Star-Tribune:

Seal of Wyoming

Seal of Wyoming (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Wyoming House has shot down a bill that would have allowed same-sex couples to create domestic partnerships carrying most of the legal rights of conventional marriage.

The House voted 35-to-24 against the bill. It marked the first time that pro-gay legislation reached a full floor debate in the state Legislature.

Proponents of the bill said that it would grant same-sex couples as well as other citizens a way to share their property and make health care decisions for each other.

Opponents warned that the bill threatened to open the state to legal action seeking to force it to approve same-sex marriage.

A separate bill cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday that would outlaw discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. That bill now heads to the full Senate.

Wyoming, the state where Matthew Shepard was tragically murdered- now has an opportunity to outlaw discrimination. I will be delighted to see it happen- but it doesn’t seem very likely at this point.

Sad. If I were a Wyoming legislator, I’d introduce a bill to change the motto to “The Inequality State”.

Matthew Shepard’s Legacy Of Passion For Human Rights

From Jason Marsden, Executive Director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation- republished from their website

(Today) will mark 14 years since the day we lost Matt Shepard. I know from the conversations I’ve had with many of you that those terrible days in October 1998 echo in your memories: where you were, how it felt, the fears, the outrage and the questions you were left with.

Why does hatred still stalk our community, you have asked. Why can’t we be left in peace to be who we are? Is it ever going to change?

We have wrestled with those questions for all these years, too. Matt’s mother and father continue to try to answer them as best they can as they travel the country, and now more of the world to speak to LGBT community members and even more importantly, their allies.

Hatred is powerful, and learned. Hatred is not reasonable, and people can seldom be reasoned out of beliefs they weren’t reasoned into in the first place. But social forces can work against hatred just as they have worked in its favor for centuries. And so that’s where we at the Foundation have felt our shoulder fits best to the wheel: creating social momentum that pushes hatred aside in favor of understanding, compassion and acceptance.

Matt means a great deal as a memory, a lesson and a tragedy to millions of people. To a relative handful of us, he means those things too, but also a person missing from our daily lives as a son, or a friend, or a classmate, or a fellow activist.

Some of you have heard my story of how I met Matt at a little birthday party in Casper, Wyoming, a long time ago now all of a sudden. He recognized me as a reporter for the local paper and gave me an earful (I have since learned he enjoyed that) about how we weren’t covering the human rights crisis unfolding in Afghanistan.

Sure, it was a small paper, but surely, Matt argued, we had a responsibility to inform people what the wire services were reporting on the Taliban and its cruel rollbacks of freedom and dignity for women in that largely ignored country.

It was around 1997 or 1998 and Americans weren’t thinking about Afghanistan or the Taliban much then. But in a country where girls could once attend school and women had at least a sliver of individual autonomy, a severe religious law backed by deadly force was eroding that progress on human rights. And Matt was outraged by it.

Our friendship was short because of his senseless murder. But I came to know that concern about human rights, and especially those of women in the developing world, was something that really disturbed Matt and made him itch to do something about it. And we all now know he was wise to worry about the danger the world could face from the zeal and hatred at the heart of these abuses.

When this week rolls around every year, people all over the world remember Matt and the wrong that was done to him out of anti-gay hatred. We look hopefully at improvements in gay rights and the culture of our country and sense at least a grim appreciation for the power this movement has gained to improve our lot.

A few of us also think about Matt the person and what the world lost with the removal from our midst of someone so passionate about human rights and social change and wonder what he might have been able to contribute.

This week I have watched the tragedy and outrage about a senseless crime of hate swell and boil over in Pakistan and cannot help but think of Matt.

Fourteen-year-old Malala Yousafzai is someone that I just know Matt would have thought was boundlessly promising and wonderful. She has been famously outspoken against militants’ attacks on the right of girls to go to school.  She blogged about her classmates’ anxieties, and talked about setting up her own school. She won a national peace prize from the prime minister. This is the change Matt wanted for women in her part of the world.

She was cruelly targeted with death on a school bus in Mingora, where the Taliban has stubbornly struggled to project its power at all costs. A gunman asked for her by name and shot her. She’d already been named on a hit list.

At this writing Malala still clings to life, and disgust at this violent effort to snuff out a powerful voice is spreading across the country and the world. We are praying for her and for her country. I hope you will too.

This is what Matt was worried about. This is what happened when Matt was killed. We are the ones left to do the hard work that makes this world a place where this doesn’t have to keep happening. We have to be up to the challenge every day because the hatred clocks in every day as well.

We at the Foundation have a role to play because of all of you who have supported our work with your encouragement, your individual voices, and yes, your donations. We thank you for all you have done to Erase Hate. And if you are in a position to provide additional support for our work, please do so today as we begin another year of remembering Matt and safeguarding his legacy.

Yours truly,

Jason Marsden
Executive Director

MSU-Northern to Present ‘The Laramie Project’

Montana Actors’ Theatre will present The Laramie Project in Havre, MT on October 21-22, 27-29, and November 3-5.

The Laramie Project play originated from a series of interviews conducted by members of the Tectonic Theatre Project following the tragedy of Matthew Shepard which transpired on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming. The creators of the play aimed to shed some light on specific faults in society regarding homophobia and hate crimes. If you’re curious about this play, come watch The Laramie Project on one of the previously mentioned dates. Please be aware: the play does contain adult themes and may not be suitable for children or young teens.

The play will be performed in the MSU-Northern/MAT Theatre. It will begin at 8 PM nightly. The doors and backstage lounge will open at 7:30 PM. Adults can view the show for $15. Students and seniors will be admitted for $10 while MSU-Northern students will be admitted free of charge with current student I.D.

Local news story here.

In Memoriam

Montana, Your Choice Has Never Been Clearer