I just wanted to pass along this video on the day when the Matthew Shepard Act was finally signed into law after a decade of legislative struggle. Phillip Spooner is a highly-decorated veteran of World War II, and his thoughts on marriage equality for gays and lesbians brought tears to my eyes. I hope you’ll take a moment to listen to his remarks and pass them on to those you can influence. We made a great deal of progress today with the stroke of President Obama’s pen, but we have a long way to go before we achieve true equality under the law.
Today is a victory for Matthew Shepard, who was brutally beaten and tortured, tied to a fence, and abandoned for 18 hours outside of Laramie, Wyoming — the sole reason being that he was gay.
Today is a victory for Angie Zapata, a transgendered woman in Greeley, Colorado who was murdered in July of 2008 for simply expressing who she was.
Today is a victory for Howard Efland, beaten to death by Los Angeles Police Department in March of 1970 after checking in to a hotel known for patronage by gay and lesbian clients.
Today is a victory for James Zappalorti, a gay Vietnam veteran who was stabbed to death in 1990. Our nation demanded the sacrifice of James serving in war, but could not treat him with dignity and respect upon his return home simply because of who he loved.
Today is a victory for Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, an 11 year old boy from Springfield, Massachusetts who hanged himself with an extension cord to escape the bullying of classmates who ridiculed him for acting feminine.
The list is seemingly endless. In order for this violence to stop, we have to develop social institutions that reinforce the equality of all people. If our government is sending the message that discrimination against gays, lesbians, and transgendered people is acceptable, how can we expect our neighbors to treat us with respect? Write to your legislators and friends about the need for the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act, the reversal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, the need for comprehensive employment discrimination protection, and the need for comprehensive federal benefits for gay and lesbian couples. If we don’t hold our officials — and each other — accountable, we can’t expect change.