Matthew Shepard’s parents hit out at anti-LGBT discrimination 19 years later

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The parents of Matthew Shepard have written an impassioned letter criticising the removal of LGBT+ protections in the US.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Judy and Dennis Shepard wrote a heartfelt and impassioned letter on the 19th anniversary of Matthew Shepard’s death.

In 1998, the gay 21-year-old was tortured and left for dead on the outskirts of Laramie, Wyoming.

His tragic death was met with a significant push for hate crimes legislation and the start of the Matthew Shepard Foundation.

Reflecting on the previous 19 years, Judy and Dennis Shepard quickly focused on current events, writing: “Please don’t overlook those who are being discriminated against now.

“There is nothing more we can do for Matt, but we can continue to do good work in his memory and try to prevent the same thing from happening to other people’s children.”

In the full letter, the parents highlighted the removal of LGBT+ protections, including the removal of the right of trans students to use the bathroom of their gender at school.

They also alluded to President Trump’s “heavy thumbed transgender military ban tweets.”

Two activists protest in the wake of Matthew Shepard’s death. (Photo: HECTOR MATA/AFP/Getty Images)

Judy and Dennis Shepard continued: “A collective grief and outrage has awakened among the LGBTQ+ community and its allies after endless decades of cruelty and exclusion.

“It feels pretty obvious that this community is being targeted again. How can this be? How can it be 2017, and still we don’t have full equality?”

LGBT+ rights in the United States have been under threat during the Trump administration, most recently with a government directive allowing businesses to discriminate against LGBT+ people on religious grounds.

Today, President Trump became the first US President to speak at an anti-LGBT hate group gathering.

The Shepards wrote: “We know all too well the policies the current administration is trying to impose on the country are a direct assault on our community and nothing more than shameful discrimination.”

The letter ended optimistically, giving hope and advice: “We see every day how, despite amazing advances, the civil rights and dignity of all who differ from society’s expectations still are threatened by ignorance and hatred.

“Erase hate in your corner of the country or the world. If you and all those around you do that, with heart, every day, we will finally live in the hate-free world we seek and deserve.”