Judy Shepard appeared on last night's edition of the Rachel Maddow Show to discuss the recent expansion of Federal hate crimes legislation and the remarks made by North Carolina representative Virginia Foxx, who, in testifying against the expansion, suggested that Shepard was merely the victim of a robbery, and that suggestions that he was targeted because he was gay were all a part of "a hoax that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."
Shepard responded thusly: "Well, you know, attacks of lesser consequence, I guess, have been said about Matt since the beginning, and in 2007 when it passed the House, the same sort of vitriol' was spoken from the floor as well. I did not ever expect it to be called a hoax. Anyone who has done research into what happened to Matt knows it was a hate crime, although technically we couldn't prosecute it that way because there was no hate crime law in Wyoming and no Federal hate crime law protecting sexual orientation. So we couldn't call it a hate crime, but it was."
Told that Foxx had later "clarified" her remarks by saying that "hoax was a poor choice of words," Shepard wasn't particularly mollified. "It's apologizing for semantics, not her ignorance."
On the matter of how the expansion may assist the victims of other hate crimes, Shepard offered some specifics: "How it will change in Matt's case in particular, in Wyoming, because the federal law did not cover sexual orientation as a protected category, Laramie was not eligible for Federal resources...they had to furlough four employees to pay for the investigation and subsequent trials. That's not right. That's not right...This is an amazing advance of what already exists."
Also worth noting is Maddow's excellent elocution of the rationale behind hate crimes legislation, which intentionally guard against miscarriages of justice, but are often interpreted as political correctness run amok:
MADDOW: The concept behind this kind of legislation is often misconstrued but here's the deal as I understand it. The idea is that the federal Justice Department can get involved in a case to help local authorities or even to take the lead on a case if need be, in prosecuting individual serious violet crimes and murders in which the victim was selected on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability - the idea that crimes like that are intended not only to hurt or murder an individual, but to terrorize an entire community, and so there is a national interest in ensuring that those crimes are solved and prosecuted, particularly if local law enforcement doesn't want to because they are blinkered by the same prejudice that led to the crime in the first place.
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