The Human Rights Campaign Foundation will unveil two new public service television spots aimed at curbing anti-gay violence and promoting a greater understanding of gay issues. The 30-second spots will feature the mother of slain Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard.
In the spots, Judy Shepard speaks about the love she and others felt for her son, and urges viewers to "choose to understand." "In a perfect world, because your child is gay, you don't worry about their safety. You just worry about them being happy," Shepard says in the first spot, entitled "Parenthood."
The public service spots, produced with the Matthew Shepard Foundation, will be distributed to every network affiliate and cable operator in the United States that uses public service announcements. The spots will begin arriving at stations the week of September 20th, and should begin airing in October on television stations that choose to run the campaign.
"Judy Shepard's message of unconditional love and support for her son is something that the entire country should hear," said Elizabeth Birch, executive director of the Human Rights Campaign. "Her strength and courage in the face of unimaginable personal tragedy serves as an inspiration to all of us. She has emerged as a powerful voice for fairness in this country."
"The theme 'choose to understand' was designed to inspire genuine reflection about what motivates animus toward gay people and suggest that it is time to dismantle it," said David M. Smith, HRC's communications director and senior strategist, who oversaw the project at HRC. "It is our sincere hope that this campaign will encourage greater understanding and healing."
Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was savagely attacked and left to die, tied to a wooden fence in below-zero temperatures. Law enforcement officials have said that the two men subsequently arrested and charged with Matthew's murder acknowledged that they targeted the 5'2" student because they knew he was gay.
A team of advertising professionals assembled by ad executive Josh Kilmer-Purcell of New York produced the spots. The team includes award-winning directors Chris Reissand Amy Hill, who most recently directed a public service announcement for the Academy of Dermatology highlighting the dangers of skin cancer. Other team members include Laura Fegley, who along with Purcell served as creative director. Dominic Ferro and Kelley Fagan served as co-executive producers.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian and gay political organization with members throughout the country. It effectively lobbies Congress, provides campaign support and educates the public to ensure that lesbian and gay Americans can be open, honest and safe at home, at work, and in the community.