Judy Shepard’s book The Meaning of Matthew, shows how a mother narrates the story of the life of her son and the journey to his death. It is a memoir that is narrated by a mother about her son’s life. Judy met with Dennis, his husband and they give birth to Matthew. Throughout the book, the author touches on the character of Matthew and tries to improve on the icon of civil rights especially concerning the issues of sexual orientation (Shepard, 2009).
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Judy Shepard narrates her first time when she was suspicious of the homosexuality of her son and how she doubted the situation. She maintains composure even though she had terrible nights thinking about her son. Later when Matthew was twenty one years, he was murdered while in college in Laramie. The main target of his death was because Matthew was a gay, and his attackers were taken to trial for hearings. During the trial, a debate regarding gay rights stoked that encouraged on working for equal rights for all people (Shepard, 2009).
Nowadays, Matthew Sheppard is a name that has the same meaning with the rights of the gay, unlike before where it simply represented the son of Judy. This story about Matthew has greatly influenced the policy of United States by making the issue of gay rights be considered when other issues are discussed. Judy Sheppard, the author of this book advertises on social justice educates and creates awareness on equality for lesbian, gay, transgender and bisexual. The story of Matthew Sheppard brought some changes in the bill of rights whereby homosexuality was included in the federal hate crime legislation.
This legislation was passed in 22nd October, 2009, and signed by president Obama as Matthew Shepard Act to become a law. However, this had been rejected in 2000 when president bill Clinton attempted to extend the federal hate crime legislation so that it would include individuals who are homosexual. It was then tried again in 2007, and it did not succeed; but after the election of president Obama, he committed to pass the Act. Today, unlike before, many federal bills offer opportunity nationally so as to improve gay, bisexual, transgender and lesbian lives. One of these bills include the (UAFA) Uniting American Families Act, which is an act of federal hate crime that mainly covers issues of gender identity and sexual orientation (Ross & Lester, 2011).
Currently, the federal law identifies hate crimes as crimes of violence, which manifest discrimination based on religion, origin, color or race. These hate crimes are not the biases but, the actions that are caused by biases such as physical assault. The community, which is also the civil society, is always in at the forefront of knowing all ways of fighting discrimination and intolerance. Therefore, the civil society acts as the representatives in communities since they are able to see these acts of intolerance before the police get to know the information. The community provides assistance to the affected victims as authorities set the suitable mechanisms for the victims. Leaders in the community also remind state authorities regarding their duty of responding and reporting hate crimes in order to protect all people. Community also acts as an instrument that empowers people to bring on social change as well as motivating legal reforms that reduce the hate crimes (Ross & Lester, 2011).
It is therefore; apparent to say that when the community is supported in its aim of eliminating discrimination will help foster peace among the people, and hence reducing the number of hate crimes. The government should prevent and respond to hate crimes so that the community is able to plan, build up and implement strategies that are against hate crimes. This implies that the community has a core role in the passage of the hate crime policy since they implement strategies meant for reducing hate crimes.
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