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Judy Shepard (née Peck; born 1952) is the mother of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old student at University of Wyoming who was murdered in October 1998 in what became one of the most high-profiled cases highlighting hate-crimes against LGBT people. She and her husband, Dennis, are co-founders of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, and advocates for LGBT rights.[1]

Judy Shepard
Judy Shepard o cropped.jpg
Shepard in June 2009
Judy Peck

(1952-08-15)August 15, 1952
OccupationBoard President – Matthew Shepard Foundation (1999–present)
Executive Director – Matthew Shepard Foundation (1999–2009)
LGBT-rights activist
Spouse(s)Dennis Shepard
ChildrenMatthew Shepard (1976–1998)
Logan Shepard (b. 1981)

Personal lifeEdit

Judy and her husband, Dennis Shepard, have lived in Casper, Wyoming (though they have also lived in Saudi Arabia) since 1976.[2] Judy is the mother of two sons, Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976–1998) and Logan Shepard (born 1981).[3][4]


Shepard (center), Louvon Harris (left), Betty Byrd Boatner (right) with President Barack Obama in 2009 to promote the Hate Crimes Prevention Act

On October 6, 1998, Judy's older son Matthew was beaten and pistol whipped in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew Shepard died six days later at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado on October 12, 1998 at age 21. It was widely reported by mass media that it was due to him being gay. The incident became one of the defining cases of hate-crimes and was cited for passing hate-crime legislation. In response, Judy Shepard created the Matthew Shepard Foundation. The foundation's purpose is to advance "social justice, diversity awareness and education, and equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people".[2]

She is the founding president of the Foundation's Board of Directors, and served as the first executive director from 1999 to 2009. On March 20, 2007, the Matthew Shepard Act (H.R. 1592), a bill which would expand federal hate-crimes legislation to include sexual orientation, was introduced as federal bipartisan legislation in the U.S. Congress, sponsored by Democrat John Conyers with 171 co-sponsors. Judy and her husband Dennis were present at the introduction ceremony. That bill did not pass however, after then-President George W. Bush threatened to veto the bill if it passed.

As of 2009, she is still board president of the foundation, and as a result she travels across the United States speaking to different audiences. In 2009, she published a memoir, The Meaning of Matthew[5][6] about how her family dealt with his murder, the subsequent court cases, the media coverage, and their work to advance civil rights over the last decade.[2]

In May 2009, Shepard met with President Barack Obama, where he promised her he would help pass the Matthew Shepard Act.[7] There was a controversy when the act was being debated in the House of Representatives, and while Judy Shepard was in the audience, Representative Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., called the allegation that the murder of Matthew Shepard was because of his homosexuality a hoax; later she apologized for this statement.[8]

On October 11, 2009, she addressed a rally for LGBT rights in the United States Capitol, at the National Equality March, saying "I'm here today because I lost my son to hate.... No one has the right to tell my son whether or not he can work anywhere. Whether or not he can live wherever he wants to live and whether or not he can be with the one person he loves -- no one has that right. We are all Americans. We are all equal Americans, gay, straight or whatever"[9] On the Saturday night before, President Obama addressed the Human Rights Campaign in the Capitol and mentioned his promise to Judy Shepard in the Oval Office, in his reassertion of his commitment to pass legislation important to the LGBT community.[10]

On October 22, 2009, the United States Congress passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and on October 28, 2009, President Obama signed the legislation into law.

Awards and honorsEdit

In 2009, Judy Shepard received the Black Tie Dinner Elizabeth Birch Equality Award. The award was presented to Ms. Shepard by Elizabeth Birch, herself, on October 3, 2009 in Dallas, Texas. The Birch Award is presented each year at the Black Tie Dinner to someone who has made a significant impact nationally on the fight for LGBT equality, and is named in honor of former Human Rights Campaign Executive Director Elizabeth Birch.[11]

On Monday, February 15, 2010; Heritage of Pride, the producers of the annual LGBT Pride March down 5th Avenue in New York City announced that Judy Shepard has been selected as a grand marshal for the March along with Lt. Dan Choi previously announced.[12][13][14][15]


  • Shepard, Judy (2009), The Meaning of Matthew: My Son's Murder in Laramie, and a World Transformed, Hudson Street Press. ISBN 1-59463-057-7

See alsoEdit


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b c Judy Shepard Bio Archived 2010-05-24 at the Wayback Machine, Matthew Shepard Foundation, accessed October 12, 2009
  3. ^ At his brother’s ‘Place’: Logan Shepard, brother of Matthew, debuts blog and goes to work for family’s foundation, Washington Blade, Katherine Volin, April 11, 2008 Archived October 31, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Matthew Shepard FAQ Archived 2009-05-05 at the Wayback Machine, Matthew Shepard Foundation
  5. ^ Matthew Shepard's Murder Made His Mom An Activist, Lansing State Journal, Steve Rothaus, October 11, 2009[dead link]
  6. ^ Conan, Neal (September 8, 2009). "Judy Shepard And 'The Meaning Of Matthew'". National Public Radio. Retrieved April 2, 2010.
  7. ^ Judy Shepard Meets With Obama, The Advocate, May 20, 2009 Archived May 29, 2009, at the Wayback Machine
  8. ^ Judy Shepard rejects Rep. Foxx's apology, MSNBC, May 1, 2009
  9. ^ 'Obama, I know you are listening': Gay rights activists march in D.C., CNN, October 12, 2009
  10. ^ The Laramie Project: Ten Years Later Premiere Archived 2009-10-16 at the Wayback Machine, TimeOut Chicago, October 13, 2009
  11. ^ "'Newsom will keynote Black Tie Dinner Saturday". Dallas Voice. October 1, 2009. Archived from the original on March 6, 2012. Retrieved September 7, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  12. ^ Broverman, Neal (February 10, 2010). "'Gay N.Y. Heats Dan Choi". The Advocate.[dead link]
  13. ^ Langfelder, Natasia (February 10, 2010). "'Lt. Dan Choi to be Grand Marshal at Pride Parade". LEZGET Real. Archived from the original on February 12, 2010. Retrieved February 17, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |dead-url= (help)
  14. ^ "Judy Shepard to Make Final Official Pride Appearance & Serve as Grand Marshal of the 41st Annual NYC LGBT Pride March" (PDF). Heritage of Pride / NYC Pride. February 15, 2010. Archived from the original (pdf) on March 26, 2010. Cite uses deprecated parameter |deadurl= (help)
  15. ^ Michaane, Maurice (February 15, 2010). "'QNY Exclusive: Judy Shepard to make final official pride appearance & serve as grand marshal of the 41st annual NYC LGBT Pride March". Queer New York.