Film and talk about hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard scheduled here this week and next

Matthew Shepard, 1976-1998

Film and talk about hate-crime victim Matthew Shepard scheduled here this week and next

Judy Shepard, whose 21-year-old son was murdered in a brutal hate crime in Wyoming in 1998, will discuss "The Legacy of Matthew Shepard: An End to Hate" in a 7 p.m. lecture Tuesday, April 28, in the auditorium of O'Shaughnessy Educational Center of the St. Paul campus of the University of St. Thomas.

"The Laramie Project," a film based on a play about Matthew Shepard's life and murder, will be shown at 6 p.m. Thursday, April 23, in Room 126 of the John R. Roach Center for the Liberal Arts, also on the university's St. Paul campus. Refreshments will be served.

Judy Shepard

Both events are free and open to the public. The film is sponsored by the St. Thomas student organization Allies. The talk is sponsored by the University Lectures Committee.

While the talk is free, tickets are required. St. Thomas students, staff and faculty can pick up a ticket at the St. Thomas Box Office, located on the lower level of Murray-Herrick Campus Center. There is a limit of one ticket per St. Thomas I.D. On April 27 and 28, any remaining tickets will be available to the public; on those days, up to four tickets per person can be picked up between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. at the Box Office.

In an attack fueled by anti-gay hatred, Matthew Shepard's skull was smashed and he was lashed to a fence outside of Laramie, Wyo., in near-freezing temperatures. He died five days later. Two 21-year-old men were convicted of the murder and are serving life terms.

His death led, in part, to a proposed federal bill, the Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007), that would expand the country's hate-crime laws to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. The bill has not yet been signed into law.

Judy Shepard and her husband, Dennis, established the Matthew Shepard Foundation to carry on their son's legacy.

Since her son's death, Judy Shepard has spoken to audiences nationwide about what they can do to make their schools and communities safer for everyone. She spoke at St. Thomas twice before, in March 2001 and April 2006.

"I feel Matthew with me every day, or I would not be able to do this," she says. "We just hope we’re doing what he would want us to do. We realize that we must use the voice his death has given us. I realize that what I can try and accomplish is to make people aware. We get so complacent in our lives that we forget not everyone is safe, and frequently, it is our children who aren’t safe."