When Judy Shepard, the mother of Matthew Shepard, a gay 21-year-old who was tortured and murdered in 1998 because he was gay, first heard about Amy Coney Barrett being nominated to the Supreme Court, her initial reaction was fear. Judy and her husband Dennis, appeared on MSNBC to talk about the Supreme Court and LGBTQ+ rights, and they did not hold back.
The Shepards appeared on AM Joy, where they were asked how concerned they were about Barrett’s nomination and Judy Shepard did not mince words. “If we have a court that is so set on not helping marginalized communities achieve equality,” she said, “I think we’re all in trouble.”
Yesterday was the 22nd anniversary of his son’s death, and Dennis Shepard added that he doesn’t understand why people still struggle to accept LGBTQ+ rights. “The LGBT community has been living out in the public eye for years now,” he said, “...this country is a democracy, not a theocracy.”
Judy Shepard had a specific message for Barrett. “Parent to parent, mom to mom, I would say, Amy, if your child comes out as gay, I hope you understand that that’s who they are,” she said. “It’s not a choice. It’s nothing you did. It’s just who they are.” Shepard didn’t stop there. “People are people, and I would hate to think that you would reject one of your children because they happen to be gay.”
“We’re all humans trying to fight for the same things,” Shepard continued, “which is acceptance and a good life and safety in our workplace and in our homes. I hope that she would recognise that as a human being.”
Barrett’s nomination to the court has frightened many LGBTQ+ Americans. She’s a conservative Catholic, and has commented publicly that she has reservations about whether declaring same-sex marriage legal was within the scope of the court’s role. She also agued that Title IX shouldn’t apply to transgender students, has called trans women “physiological males,” and has made many other troubling statements about LGBTQ+ rights, including using the term “sexual preference” during her confirmation hearing.