Judy Shepard Awarded Presidential Medal of Freedom

Judy Shepard. Photo via Matthew Shepard Foundation Facebook page.

Judy Shepard, who has fought to erase hate in the memory of her slain gay son, was honored with the highest civilian award in the United States. 

Shepard, 71, received the Presidential Medal of Freedom on May 3 in a ceremony at the White House. 

“This unexpected honor has been very humbling for me, Dennis and our family. What makes us proud is knowing our president and our nation share our lifelong commitment to making this world a safer, more loving, more respectful and more peaceful place for all,” Shepard said. 

Shepard was one of 19 recipients of the award. President Joe Biden called the group “incredible people whose relentlessly, curiosity, inventiveness, ingenuity and hope have kept the faith in a better tomorrow.”

Shepard started the Matthew Shepard Foundation following the brutal murder of her 21-year-old son in 1998. Together with her husband Dennis, the Shepards have tirelessly advocated for enhanced crime fighting measures that cover sexual orientation and gender identity. 

In 2009, their hard work paid off when former President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act into law. 

In an article published in the Human Rights Campaign Equality magazine, Shepard wrote, “Matthew’s legacy is not about hate. Matthew’s legacy is about understanding, compassion, acceptance and love.”


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