WASHINGTON – The parents of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student murdered in a vicious 1998 attack, assailed Attorney General William Barr and the Trump administration Wednesday.
The criticism by the Shepards was leveled at a Justice Department event commemorating the 10th anniversary of hate-crime legislation named for their son.
A statement prepared by Judy and Dennis Shepard, who were unable to attend the event, called on the attorney general to “take a stand as a member of this administration to disavow and condemn any person who fuels the fires of hate with their words and actions.”
“We find it interesting and hypocritical that (Barr) would invite us to this event commemorating a hate crime law named after our son . . . while, at the same time, asking the Supreme Court to allow the legalized firing of transgender,” according to the statement read by Cynthia M. Deitle, director of programs and operations at the Denver-based Matthew Shepard Foundation.
The parents’ statement referred to a case before the Supreme Court last week in which the Trump administration argued that LGBT people could be fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
“Mr. Barr represents the government and he is well-suited and has the power to change hearts and minds to promote diversity, inclusion, and equity among all groups of people, and drive out the forces of hate,” Deitle, a former FBI agent, said in the unusual rebuke.
“You cannot have it both ways. If you believe that employers should have the right to terminate transgender employees, just because they are transgender, then you believe they are lesser than and not worthy of protection”
Barr was not present at the Justice event. But in statement recognizing the anniversary of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the attorney general condemned hate-inspired attacks as “reprehensible.”
“Precisely because they are fueled by bias against specific people and groups, they also are a grave affront to America’s foundational principles and ideals,” Barr said.
Shepard was killed near Laramie, Wyoming, where two men beat and robbed the 21-year-old college student and left him tied him to a fence because he was gay.
Byrd, 49, was chained to the back of a pickup truck and dragged for three miles down a logging road in Jasper, Texas, tearing his body apart. Prosecutors said Byrd was targeted because he was black.