State Department Hosts Webchat on LGBTI Rights with Judy Shepard

Hayley Miller

Tomorrow, the U.S. Department of State will host a global webchat featuring Special Envoy Randy Berry and human rights activist Judy Shepard on the issues LGBTI people face around the world and hate crime prevention. The webchat follows the tragic shooting at an Orlando nightclub serving the LGBTQ community. Berry is the first ever Special Envoy for the Human Rights of LGBTI Persons. Shepard is the mother of Matthew Shepard, who was attacked in a brutal hate crime in Laramie, Wyoming, in 1998. Matthew, who was just 21-years-old, died five days after the attack.

The interactive webchat will also focus on how the U.S. government and advocacy organizations can engage around LGBTI rights and the power of storytelling.

Emmy-winning filmmaker Michele Josue will also join the discussion. Josue directed the documentary Matt Shepard is a Friend of Mine, which tells the personal story of the life and legacy of Matthew Shepard.

Together, the group will share their perspectives on preventing hate crimes, creating dialogue and encouraging inclusion of LGBTI communities around the world.

Sadly, hate crimes and discrimination affect the lives of many LGBTI persons around the world, most recently in Orlando. More than 20 percent of hate crimes reported nationally in 2014 targeted people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, according to the most recent FBI statistics available. This reporting undercounts the number of hate crimes that are committed in the United States due in part because of non-mandatory reporting requirements. A recent investigation by the Associated Press found that more than 2,700 city police and county sheriff’s departments across the country had not reported a single hate crime to the FBI for the past six years, representing about 17 percent of these law enforcement agencies nationwide.

The federal hate crimes law, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, was signed into law in 2009. The law gives the Department of Justice the power to investigate and prosecute bias-motivated crimes where a perpetrator has selected a victim because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, among other characteristics. However, most hate crimes are prosecuted at the state level. Unfortunately, 15 states lack LGBT-inclusive hate crime laws. Five states (Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Wyoming) don’t have laws addressing the scourge of hate crimes.

In some countries, being identified as LGBTI can lead to imprisonment or even death.

Learn more about hate crimes and the laws in your state here and don’t forget to join the webchat tomorrow, Tuesday, June 14, at 10:00 a.m. EDT at

Judy Shepard has served on the HRC Board of Directors since 2001 and has appeared at HRC Foundation’s Time to THRIVE conference. Judy and her husband, Dennis, have travelled around the world connecting with LGBTQ activists and how to build support among allies and effective campaigns against hate violence. Read a recent op-ed from Shepard and HRC President Chad Griffin on the epidemic of the violence against transgender women here.

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