Since the autumn of 1998, when her 21-year-old gay son, Matthew, was brutally attacked and left to die near the University of Wyoming campus, Judy Shepard has crusaded for hate-crime laws. Tonight, she gives the keynote speech as the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgendered Community Center of Greater Cleveland marks the one-year anniversary of its Metro Youth Outreach program for Cleveland's gay kids living on the streets. Shepard will also shed light on the recently passed Matthew Shepard Act to stop violence against sexual minorities. "Violent crimes committed in the name of hate must end. For far too long, this important piece of legislation has been misconstrued and distorted by its opponents," says Shepard. "Both houses of Congress overcame the lies and misinformation claiming the bill would take away our rights to free expression and religious liberty. Nothing could be further from the truth."The center will also debut the locally shot film While We Sleep, about gay teens without homes. The movie is a perfect fit with Shepard's talk, says Metro Youth Outreach program director Mika Major. "While we bring the community together to address homelessness in our area's youth and shine light on the preponderance of gay, homeless youth, it's important to see this as part of a whole society problem," she says. "Judy Shepard gives both the personal and national perspective."As for Shepard, her speech would have made her son proud. "I've spoken to over one million people searching for a way to help us in our mission to erase hate," says Shepard. "We are eager to provide them with the tools to amplify their voices and begin to turn the tide on hate in America." The reception is from 7 to 10 tonight at the Ritz-Carlton Silver Grille, 200 West Prospect Avenue. Admission is free. Call 612-651-5428 or visit www.lgbtcleveland.org.
Fri., April 4, 7-10 p.m., 2008
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