CBS: Activist Judy Shepard Blames 'Vicious Rhetoric' and 'Un-American' Opposition to Gay Marriage for Rutgers Suicide

Judy Shepard and Maggie Rodriguez, CBS On Friday's CBS Early Show, co-host Maggie Rodriguez talked to gay rights activist Judy Shepard, mother of murdered gay student Matthew Shepard, about the suicide of Rutgers University student Tyler Clementi, asking: "Do you think that our young people, that we, as a society, have learned anything since Matthew's death?"

In reply, Shepard ranted: "...we have such vicious rhetoric still floating around the country....All you have to do is go to the floor of the Congress, or media, the newspapers, about the discontent with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the marriage issue and it still seems like we're trying to relegate the gay community to a second-class citizen."

Rodriguez wondered: "What do you think that Congress or lawmakers should be doing differently?" Shepard used the opportunity to promote liberal agenda items: "Well, they should be granting basic civil rights to the gay community instead of continuing to try to deny them....To deny them service in the military or job security on a federal level or even the right to marry and receive all those benefits that are derived from that, it's just – it's just unfair, and, in my view, un-American."

Later, Rodriguez brought up the role of the internet in driving Clementi to suicide. Shepard declared: "...the blogosphere is particularly damaging, full of opinions that really have no accountability, that people take as the absolute truth. There's a real danger in what happens on the internet now."

Here is a full transcript of the interview:

7:17AM ET TEASE:

MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Still ahead this morning, the latest on the suicide of college student Tyler Clementi. Was it prompted by a hate crime? We'll talk with the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was murdered because he was gay.
                                
7:21AM ET TEASE:

RODRIGUEZ: When college freshman Tyler Clementi jumped off a bridge after a video of him with another man was posted on the internet, gay activists called it a hate crime, and now authorities may be ready to do the same. Ahead we'll talk to Judy Shepard, a crusader against this since her son was murdered.

7:33AM ET SEGMENT:

RODRIGUEZ: It was 12 years ago that Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, was brutally murdered by two young men who targeted him because he was gay. Since then, his mother, Judy Shepard, whom you saw, has been an activist for issues involving gay youth and she joins us this morning from Chicago. Judy, good morning. Thanks for being with us today.

JUDY SHEPARD: Good morning, Maggie. I'm sorry to be here under such circumstances.

[ON-SCREEN HEADLINE: Campus Tragedy; Matthew Shepard's Mother Speaks Out]

RODRIGUEZ: I know. This is obviously different from what happened to Matthew, but still, it must have brought back painful memories for you.

SHEPARD: Oh, absolutely, we're approaching the 12th anniversary of Matthew's death, this absolutely brings home very painful memories.

RODRIGUEZ: I remember that you and I spoke when you had just written the book about Matthew and told me that you hoped that it would lead to more tolerance. Do you think that our young people, that we, as a society, have learned anything since Matthew's death?

SHEPARD: Well, you know, we have such vicious rhetoric still floating around the country, I'm not really sure who our leaders are and what they think they're communicating to our young people. All you have to do is go to the floor of the Congress, or media, the newspapers, about the discontent with 'Don't Ask, Don't Tell' and the marriage issue and it still seems like we're trying to relegate the gay community to a second-class citizen.

RODRIGUEZ: What do you think that Congress or lawmakers should be doing differently?

SHEPARD: Well, they should be granting basic civil rights to the gay community instead of continuing to try to deny them. To me, that's what it is, is really basic civil rights. To deny them service in the military or job security on a federal level or even the right to marry and receive all those benefits that are derived from that, it's just – it's just unfair, and, in my view, un-American.

RODRIGUEZ: In the meantime, though, I feel it has to include parents and schools who are educating children, teaching them attitudes. What do you wish that the people who killed Matthew would have known or would have been taught before they committed this atrocious crime?

SHEPARD: Well, I just think it's so important to try to communicate to our children and/or students empathy, to understand what other people's lives are like and a general rule of accepting everyone for who they are and respecting them, just for being here. Self-respect is just so important. And if our society is not allowing us to even feel that, I don't know what the recourse – I don't know what the recourse is, but we work very hard in the school system to try to communicate bullying but if we don't deal with the issues of the bully, we really get nowhere. What we do at school needs to be followed up at home. And what we do at home needs to be followed up at school. I think we just think someone else is taking care of it and, evidently, they're not.

RODRIGUEZ: And something that's compounded bullying is the internet. 12 years ago, when Matthew was killed, it wasn't an issue. How do you think it's contributing now?

SHEPARD: Well, news gets out much more quickly, it's the yin and the yang, right. The news gets out much more quickly but it's not always accurate. We don't really know what is and what isn't the truth. And the blogosphere is particularly damaging, full of opinions that really have no accountability, that people take as the absolute truth. There's a real danger in what happens on the internet now.

RODRIGUEZ: Judy, what would you say to Tyler Clementi's parents this morning?

SHEPARD: I – my deepest, deepest sympathies to them and only they know the true soul of their son and that is what they need to hold in their hearts now.

RODRIGUEZ: And what do you think should happen to the students who are accused in this crime?

SHEPARD: Well, I hope they are prosecuted to the full extent of the law. What they did was reckless, thoughtless, and hateful.

RODRIGUEZ: And let's hope, as Ellen DeGeneres put it, that this is a wake-up call. Judy Shepard, thank you so much, once again, for being with us.

SHEPARD: Thank you, Maggie. I appreciate it.
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen
Kyle Drennen is a News Analyst for MRC