Rea Carey, Executive Director, National Youth Advocacy Coalition, said:
"The National Youth Advocacy Coalition finds the attack on University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard brutish, disgusting and a frightening reflection of the violence faced by gay youth. This horrendous beating, burning, and torture is one stop on the clear continuum of violence and harassment faced by our nation's young people. Starting with name calling in elementary schools and ending in murder on our nation's streets and rural roads, the threats to safety for gay youth have been tolerated for far too long. It is time our nation's leaders and communities took a stand against the extreme mistreatment of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth.
Wyoming Governor Jim Geringer's call this week for hate crimes legislation is admirable but comes too late for Matthew Shepard. Somewhere along the way, his attackers got the message that it is acceptable to beat, burn, and rob a young gay man. Past opponents of the inclusion of 'sexual orientation' in hate crimes legislation argued that its passage would give 'special rights' to gays. It seems to me that Matthew Shepard could have used any rights the night he was tied to a fence and beaten. Anti-gay forces will have to be very creative in coming up with an argument for not passing hate crimes legislation next time around. Their excuses will fall on angry ears. It is time for the State of Wyoming and our country to right its past wrongs.
This week, I will be attending the White House Conference on School Safety with other advocates for safe learning environments. This conference comes at a critical time as our nation struggles with violent attacks on this country's students at the hands of their peers. Although Matthew Shepard is a college student, his attack is, unfortunately, representative of the continuum of violence and harassment faced by gay youth beginning in grade school. The National Youth Advocacy Coalition calls on our nation's decision-makers, the White House, and communities across the country to open their eyes to the day to day realities of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender youth. Our country can not afford to lose one more life at the hands of homophobic youth and the laws, systems and beliefs that support them."