(CBS4) –On Oct. 28, 2009, then-president Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. Shepard’s parents tell CBS News progress has been made in the past 10 years, but there is still more to do to combat
On Oct. 7, 1998, two roofing workers offered Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at the University of Wyoming, a ride from a bar. Shepard was brutally beaten, tied to a fence near Laramie and left to die. The killers targeted him because he was gay but killing was not prosecuted as a hate crime because Wyoming doesn’t have a hate crime law. (In 2015, Laramie passed a local anti-discrimination ordinance.)
Since his death, Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, have worked to strengthen hate crimes laws and raise awareness of the violence members of the LGBTQ+ community face.
“We’ve come a long way, and the inclusion of sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability is huge,” Judy Shepard told CBS News.
However, the Shepard-Byrd Act only applies to violent felonies such as murder, attempted murder, aggravated assault, kidnapping or rape — and not misdemeanors such as vandalism or property damage, threats or intimidation — according to the Matthew Shepard Foundation website. State laws vary, and five states — Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Wyoming — have no state-level hate crimes law.
The Shepards also want changes to the way hate crimes are reported across the country. Hate crimes spiked about 17 percent year-to-year in 2017, rising for the third year in a row. But advocates say the records collected by the FBI are incomplete because law enforcement agencies are not required to report them to federal investigators.
Along with keeping more accurate records about the number of hate crimes, Judy and Dennis Shepard want to make sure no victim is forgotten.
“I just think we’ve become so numb, because [hate crimes have] become a part of our culture, like mass shootings,” Judy Shepard told CBS News. “We talk about them for 10 minutes and then we move on — I just think that’s really tragic.”
(© Copyright 2019 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)