NEW YORK: Rather than pay its respects in silence, the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) has chosen to use the fifth anniversary of Matthew Shepard's murder as a platform to launch an aggressive media relations push to raise awareness of the prevalence of hate crimes, particularly among minority groups.
In a case that garnered national media attention, 21-year-old Shepard was beaten and tied to a fence post in Laramie, WY in an anti-gay attack that left him dead five days later. His convicted killers, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, are currently serving two consecutive life sentences without the possibility of parole.
"One of the most common questions Matthew's death raised is, 'Why did his murder get so much media attention?'" said Cathy Renna, news media director for GLAAD. "This five-year marker is a chance to broaden that conversation by getting journalists to explore other hate crimes that no one ever knew about because the victims did not fit the boy-next-door image that Matthew did."
GLAAD has developed a media resource guide, available at glaad.org, which contains legislative links, terminology guides, as well as background information and past media coverage on less publicized violent incidents motivated by anti-gay bias.
"When you look at the website, you see the faces of a lot of people of color," said Renna. "We're hoping this will help get the point across to the media."