Rep. Virginia Foxx Dishonored Matthew Shepard's Death On The House Floor
On April 29, 2009, in a speech on the House floor, Rep. Virginia Foxx claimed that Matthew Shepard's death was merely the result of a robbery gone bad. While his killers Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson did rob him, they also admitted that they were well aware of his sexual orientation and pretended they were gay to lure him away from the bar he was in at the time. The most striking feature of the case, of course, is that during the course of a normal, simple robbery, the victim is not generally beaten, tied to a post, and left for dead.
Matthew Shepard's Death Was A Hate Crime, Not Simply A Robbery
Rep. Foxx: "The bill was named after a very unfortunate incident that happened, where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery. It wasn't because he was gay. The bill was named for him, the hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's, it's really a hoax, that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."[House Floor Speech, 4/29/09]
All the evidence clearly indicates that this was a vicious hate crime, not a robbery gone bad.
Shepard's Killers Lured Him "Out Of A Bar By Saying They Were Gay." According to the New York Times: "According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious." [New York Times, 10/12/98]
The "Robbery" Myth Was Debunked During The Trial Of Matthew Shepard's Killers. As reported by Slate a few weeks after the Shepard murder trial: "Speculation has persisted for the past year that Matthew Shepard, rather than being the victim of gay-bashing, might really have been nothing more than a hapless robbery victim who was exploited by gay activists to reap unwarranted sympathy and advance their own agenda to enact hate-crimes legislation. Statements made by one of the convicted killers, which were revealed for the first time Thursday, reveal these accounts to be false. [...] The most significant revelations emerged from the secret confession of Henderson, obtained just three days after his plea bargain. Henderson debunked the portrayal of Shepard that has gained currency the past few weeks. Had he testified in court as scheduled at McKinney's trial, he would have blown apart the watered-down 'gay panic' defense pursued to the end by McKinney's legal team." [Slate.com, 11/6/99, emphasis added]
Detective: "They Knew Damn Well He Was Gay." The Slate article went on to report: "According to detectives who interviewed both of the convicted murderers, there is no evidence that Shepard made any sexual advances to the pair -- and the detectives dismissed the idea that the murder was the mere result of a robbery gone bad. 'Far from that!' scoffed Sgt. Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case. 'They knew damn well he was gay ... It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.'" [Slate.com, 11/6/99; emphasis added]
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: April 29, 2009
Brad Luna | Phone: 202/216.1514 | Cell: 202/812.8140
Trevor Thomas | Phone: 202/216.1547 | Cell: 202/250.9758
Human Rights Campaign Condemns Rep. Foxx’s Remarks Calling Matthew Shepard’s Hate Motivated Murder “A Hoax”
“Rep. Foxx should be ashamed of herself,” said Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign
WASHINGTON – During debate on hate crimes legislation taking place today on the floor of the United States House of Representatives, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) claimed that Matthew Shepard's death was “a hoax.” While Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard looked on from the House gallery, Foxx, who managed the floor for those opposed to the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, spoke saying, “the hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard Bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This – the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”
“Vile lies, like the one spread by Rep. Foxx today on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives about Matthew’s brutal hate-fueled murder, continues to underscore how extreme anti-LGBT opponents have become,” said Brad Luna, Communications Director for the Human Rights Campaign. “It is no longer acceptable in this day and age to just come right out and say you don’t like gay people. Instead, extremist opponents of equality must resort to these types of malicious and twisted lies. Rep. Foxx should be ashamed of herself.”
On the night of October 7, 1998, two men led Matthew Shepard to a remote area east of Laramie, Wyoming where they demonstrated unimaginable acts of hate, killing the twenty-one year old college student because he was gay. This hate motivated murder sparked a national outcry to expand hate crimes laws to protect the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. The perpetrators of this heinous act are now both serving life sentences for Matthew’s death.
Media Matters for America has posted video of Rep. Foxx’s remarks today and background information regarding widespread acceptance among the media and others that Matthew’s murder was motivated by hate violence. To view the video and read the background, go to: http://mediamattersaction.org/items/200904290005
Because there is no federal law mandating states and municipalities to report hate crimes, they are often underreported. However, the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s own statistics, based on voluntary reporting, show that since 1991 over 100,000 hate crime offenses have been reported to the FBI, with 7,624 reported in 2007, the FBI’s most recent reporting period. Violent crimes based on sexual orientation constituted 16.6 percent of all hate crimes in 2007, with 1,265 reported for the year. In addition, while not captured in the federal statistics, transgender Americans too often live in fear of violence.
The LLEHCPA gives the Justice Department the power to investigate and prosecute bias motivated violence where the perpetrator has selected the victim because of the person's actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. It provides the Justice Department with the ability to aid state and local jurisdictions either by lending assistance or, where local authorities are unwilling or unable, by taking the lead in investigations and prosecutions of violent crime resulting in death or serious bodily injury that were motivated by bias. It also makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.
A wide coalition of national organizations has called for the passage of the LLEHCPA legislation. Some of those organizations supporting this legislation include: the National Sheriffs Association; International Association of Chiefs of Police; 26 state Attorneys General; the National District Attorneys Association; the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights; the Anti-Defamation League; the NAACP; the National Council of La Raza; the Presbyterian Church; the Episcopal Church; and the National Disability Rights Network.
To take action to support the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, please visit: www.FightHateNow.org.
The Human Rights Campaign is America’s largest civil rights organization working to achieve lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender equality. By inspiring and engaging all Americans, HRC strives to end discrimination against LGBT citizens and realize a nation that achieves fundamental fairness and equality for all.