"I hear that argument all the time: special rights for special people. It's not even the point. What this does is bring us up to a level of equality in prosecution . . . Personal bias in officers and prosecution is absolutely indicative of what's going to happen sometimes. Not always, but sometimes. And we need the vehicle to be able to address it somehow. And the crimes that are committed as hate crimes? They're meant to send a message to a community, not to an individual. It's a totally different type of crime."
—Judy Shepard on The Rachel Maddow Show. She was asked how she would respond to those who think that the justice department shouldn't get involved in hate crimes or that those protected under hate-crime laws are being "privileged" over victims of violent crimes that weren't committed because of bias. Shepard also responded to North Carolina Republican representative Virginia Foxx's claim that Shepard's son Matthew wasn't killed because he was gay.
To watch the video to find out what the bill that may become a law actually does, read more.
The Matthew Shepard Act (officially, the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2007, or LLEHCPA) expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The bill also:
- Removes the current prerequisite that the victim be engaging in a federally protected activity, like voting or going to school
- Gives federal authorities greater ability to engage in hate crimes investigations that local authorities choose not to pursue
- Provides $10 million in funding for 2008 and 2009 to help state and local agencies pay for investigating and prosecuting hate crimes
- Requires the FBI to track statistics on hate crimes against transgender people (statistics for the other groups are already tracked)