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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, October 26, 2018 - Volume 46 Issue 43
LGBT bar remembers Matthew Shepard and commits to continue fighting for full LGBTQ+ legal equality
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LGBT bar remembers Matthew Shepard and commits to continue fighting for full LGBTQ+ legal equality

WASHINGTON, DC (October 25, 2018) - The National LGBT Bar Association celebrates the life of Matthew Shepard and offers his loved ones our continuing sympathies as his ashes are interred at the National Cathedral this Friday.

Burial at the National Cathedral is an honor reserved for a select few Americans. This chosen place of honor speaks volumes of Matthew's place in our nation's history and the vast change our nation has undergone since 1998. We have seen exponential progress for LGBTQ+ equality in the courts, legislatures, and culture of our country. However, there is much more work to be done.

The LGBT Bar will continue to fight for full LGBTQ+ legal equality, in honor of Matthew Shepard and all other LGBTQ+ individuals who deserve the same dignity and respect as their straight and cisgender peers.

Full LGBTQ+ legal equality demands that use of the gay and trans 'panic' defense in courtrooms across the nation must end.

One of the most recognized cases that employed the gay 'panic' defense was that of Matthew Shepard. One of the men convicted of murdering Matthew initially defended his horrendously violent actions by claiming Matthew touched his knee, causing him to react violently to Matthew's actions.

As was the case in the Matthew Shepard's murder, a gay or trans 'panic' defense is employed anytime a defendant argues the sexual orientation or gender identity of their victim not only explains - but excuses - the defendant's loss of self-control and subsequent assault or murder. Even the attempted use of this courtroom tactic by a defense attorney implies that LGBTQ+ lives are worth less than others - whether or not such a defense is successful in court.

Currently, the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act of 2018 is pending in Congress. We urge Congress to act on this legislation so that LGBTQ+ victims will be better protected in federal courts. In addition, only California, Illinois, and Rhode Island have passed similar legislation on the state level. Legislation is currently pending in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Washington, the District of Columbia, and elsewhere. The LGBT Bar will continue to work hard at encouraging states across the nation [to] declare that LGBTQ+ lives are worthy of justice and dignity, in and out of the courtroom, through legislative bans of the gay and trans 'panic' defense.

As we remember Matthew Shepard and his family this week, we also remember the work that must be done to honor his memory and protect LGBTQ+ individuals in this nation.

The National LGBT Bar Association is a national association of lawyers, judges and other legal professionals, law students, activists, and affiliated lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender legal organizations. The LGBT Bar promotes justice in and through the legal profession for the LGBT community in all its diversity.

Courtesy of the National LGBT Bar Association

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