In a shocking 1998 hate crime, 21 year old college student Matthew Shepard was robbed, beaten, and left to die by two men who acknowledged they had targeted him because he was gay. The Matthew Shepard Act, which would add sexual orientation to existing hate crimes legislation, was passed by the House of Representatives this Wednesday, after a ten-year battle by his mother, Judy Shepard.
During the House debate, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC) called the story of Shepard 's death "a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills. "� She insisted, "That young man was killed in the middle of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay."
Judy Shepard was in the House gallery to hear Foxx's cruel remarks. She told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday that they came as no surprise, because "in 2007, when it passed the House, the same sort of vitriol was spoken from the floor then as well."
She added, however, "I did not expect it to ever be called a hoax."
Foxx has since acknowledged that "hoax" was "a poor choice of words" but has not otherwise apologized for her remarks. "It's apologizing for semantics," Shepard stated, "not for her sentiment or actually what she said, her insensitivity and her ignorance."
The Matthew Shepard Act previously passed the House of Representatives in 2007 but was derailed in the Senate, partly because of a threatened veto by then-President Bush. Shepard says she is "very hopeful" of Senate passage this time. "We know we have the president's support," she told Maddow. "We know we have the support of the senators. It's just how it's presented now that will be the key."
Shepard concluded by emphasizing the importance of adding gays to hate crimes legislation. "The crimes that are committed as hate crimes "” they're meant to sent a message to a community, not to an individual," she stated. "It's a totally different type of crime."
This video is from MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show, broadcast Apr. 30, 2009.