Mother of slain gay man urges gays to unite vs. discrimination
STATELINE (AP) – Judy Shepard, whose gay son was beaten to death five years ago, says gays and lesbians need to present a united front against discrimination of any sort.
“Hate is not a gay thing. It’s everywhere. We need to take care of each other,” she told a gathering of primarily gay people Wednesday night.
“You’re being denied rights because people don’t know anything about you. You have to let them know who you are.”
Shepard, whose 21-year-old son was murdered in Wyoming in 1998, was the principal speaker during the weeklong “Ascent: The Winter Party at Lake Tahoe” sponsored by the Lake Tahoe Gay Lesbian Foundation.
It’s the first of two back-to-back gay and lesbian skiing and entertainment events this month at Tahoe’s casino-lined south shore. WinterFest, sponsored by a Reno-based group, opens on Sunday, the final day of Ascent.
Judy Shepard noted that this was her third visit to Tahoe. The previous two were as a family.
“We weren’t sure we wanted Matt to be the martyr for the cause,” she said. “What I do now is not about Matt any more. We can’t help Matt any more.
“I just couldn’t let Matt see me come apart, so I figured this was the best way for me to not come apart.”
Two men are serving life sentence for the murder.
Wednesday’s program also featured actress Judith Light, representing The Point Foundation, which offers financial assistance to prospective college students who have been kicked out of their homes.
She introduced two Point scholars- Julie Schell, a doctoral student at Columbia University’s Teachers College, and Zach Zyskowski, a violin student at UCLA.
“We are the parents that they don’t have – that they should have had,” Light said. “This is what ‘no child left behind’ truly means.”
Part of the proceeds from Ascent help fund The Point Foundation and The Matthew Shepard Foundation, along with a half-dozen local organizations.
Ascent winds down on Saturday with drag races and a costume contest at Heavenly Mountain Resort and an Indigo Girls concert that night at Caesars Tahoe.
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