Approaching the 11-year anniversary of the murder of gay college student Matthew Shepard, on Tuesday’s CBS Early Show co-host Maggie Rodriguez spoke with his mother Judy Shepard and asked about her efforts to pass hate crimes legislation: "Do you think this is finally the administration and the Congress that will get it done?"
Shepard, who was on to discuss her new book about her son, was hopeful that it would pass, especially after some legislative manipulation: "Well, I hope so. We know that this President will sign it if the bill comes to his desk, with his other requirements, because it’s attached to a Department of Defense bill, so that makes it a little trickier now. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed."
When Rodriguez initially asked about her activism, Shepard praised the role of the media in pushing the gay rights agenda: "What Matt’s story did was cause a lot of unintended education, if you will, through the press. People were made aware of what was going on in the gay community and it started a national dialogue...The gay community was part of every public discussion, where it used to be, you know, something you didn’t talk about, in the closet, if you will."
Here is a full transcript of the interview:
MAGGIE RODRIGUEZ: Almost 11 years ago, Matthew Shepard was the victim of a despicable hate crime that captured the attention of the nation. The death of the 21-year-old student sparked protests all over the country and since then his mother has been pushing for a national hate crimes act. She has now written a book, ‘The Meaning of Matthew, My Son’s Murder in Laramie and A World Transformed.’ Judy Shepard is with us this morning. Good morning, Judy.
JUDY SHEPARD [MOTHER, MATTHEW SHEPARD]: Good morning, Maggie.
RODRIGUEZ: Congratulations on the book.
SHEPARD: Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: It’s beautiful. I have to say, though, as a mother, it is not an easy book to read.
SHEPARD: No, it’s not. It’s not easy.
RODRIGUEZ: As a mother who lived it, how was it to write this book for you?
SHEPARD: You know, I thought a lot of those memories had been – I wouldn’t have to go back to them. Digging it all up was really hard, it was a lot harder than I thought it was going to be.
RODRIGUEZ: What do you want this book to be?
SHEPARD: What I want it – it’s the truth. It’s my truth, it’s our family’s truth. And I make that very clear that they’re our memories, they may be remembered differently by other people, but this is our Matt. And I felt it was time to introduce Matt, known to his family and friends, to the Matthew that everybody else thinks they though.
RODRIGUEZ: The Matthew that everyone else knows is this boy, who ten years ago was beaten, tied to a fence, and left for dead because he was gay. And in the book you write ‘there was blood everywhere, in a pool under his head and all across his face. Matted in his hair and caked around his nostrils except for the tracks on each of his cheeks, that had been left by tears.’ To recall that, how does – how do you deal with that pain? And has anything brought you peace over the last ten years?
SHEPARD: Well I – you know, you just – it’s just day by day still. The thing is it’s a horrible pain, memory. What’s happened in the last ten years is you don’t really move on. It’s just different. You remember different things. And in beginning it was the horror and anguish of losing Matt and you know, worrying about the pain and the fear that he was feeling at the time. Now we talk about Matt and the happy memories that we have of him. So that’s – that’s the good transition.
RODRIGUEZ: And from this horrible tragedy was born your activism.
SHEPARD: What Matt’s story did was cause a lot of unintended education, if you will, through the press. People were made aware of what was going on in the gay community and it started a national dialogue. And then the production of the Laramie Project sort of kept that dialogue going and I think young people are just more aware, there’s a lot more information available now. The gay community was part of every public discussion, where it used to be, you know, something you didn’t talk about, in the closet, if you will.
RODRIGUEZ: Since Matt died, you have tried every year to lobby for this hate crime bill, the Matthew Shepard Act. Do you think this is finally the administration and the Congress that will get it done?
SHEPARD: Well, I hope so. We know that this President will sign it if the bill comes to his desk, with his other requirements, because it’s attached to a Department of Defense bill, so that makes it a little trickier now. I’m just keeping my fingers crossed.
RODRIGUEZ: What do you hope will come from your book and Matt’s story?
SHEPARD: Well, I – I really hope that parents will read this story and understand how important it is to love your children no matter what and to never let them feel anything other than just love and encouragement from their parents.
RODRIGUEZ: When you think of Matt now, what comes to your mind some.
SHEPARD: I miss his hugs. Thanks.
RODRIGUEZ: Thanks, Judy Shepard. Good luck to you.
SHEPARD: Thank you.
RODRIGUEZ: Pleasure to have you on. If you would like to read an excerpt from Judy’s book, just go to our website, EarlyShow.CBSNews.com.