Republican calls Matthew Shepard murder ‘a hoax’ in hate-crimes debate

A North Carolina Republican called the idea that Wyoming college student Matthew Shepard was murdered because he was gay “a hoax” in the debate currently under way on the floor of the House of Representatives over legislation to expand federal hate-crimes law to cover sexual orientation.

U.S. Rep. Virginia Foxx, speaking against the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act, or the Matthew Shepard Act, called Shepard’s 1999 murder “a very unfortunate incident” committed during a robbery, despite the admission of Shepard’s killers that they lured him from a bar by pretending they were gay.

Here’s what Foxx said on the House floor:

“The hate crimes bill that’s called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of robbery. It wasn’t because he was gay. This — the bill was named for him, the hate crimes bill was named for him, but it’s really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills.”

Media Matters posts the video of Foxx calling Shepard’s murder “a hoax”:

Shepard died in a Fort Collins hospital five days after he was discovered tied to a fence after Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson pistol-whipped him and left him to die in the cold. McKinney and Henderson were convicted and both are serving two consecutive life sentences for the murder.

Politico’s Glenn Thrush got a quick reaction to Foxx’s remarks:

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.), who supports the hate crimes bill, stared in disbelief before answering a question about the statement.

“It’s just sad the Republican caucus has been reduced to such a fringe,” she said. “It’s sad they would go out of their way to prevent people from getting justice.”

Denver-based writer Dave Cullen wrote in Slate in 1999 in an article about the “gay-panic” defense advanced by one of Shepard’s convicted killers:

“According to detectives who interviewed both of the convicted murderers, there is no evidence that Shepard made any sexual advances to the pair — and the detectives dismissed the idea that the murder was the mere result of a robbery gone bad. ‘Far from that!’ scoffed Sgt. Rob DeBree, the chief investigator in the case. ‘They knew damn well he was gay … It started out as a robbery and burglary, and I sincerely believe the other activity was because he was gay.’”

“They just wanted to beat him bad enough to teach him a lesson, not to come on to straight people, and don’t be aggressive about it anymore,” McKinney’s girlfriend, Kristen Price, told ABC News shortly after the attack.

Here’s what Judy Shepard had to say last week about the hate-crimes legislation and the murder of her son, Matthew. Shepard watched the debate Wednesday from the House gallery.

John Aravosis comes out swinging at America Blog:

Even though Shepard’s murderers admitted that they killed him because he was gay, the far-right bigots who control the Republican party couldn’t resist the opportunity to gay-bash Shepard one last time. Now by referring to his brutal murder as a hoax. …

A hoax? Belittling the brutal murder of a 21 year old college student? And Republicans wonder why their angry, hateful, pathetic party is now only 20% of the US population.

Watch the video for yourself. Then feel free to call this sorry excuse for a human being and tell her what you think of her bigotry.

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The proposed legislation would add gender, sexual orientation and gender identity to federal hate-crime law and allow federal authorities to step in when local law enforcement either asks for help or refuses to take the lead investigating and prosecuting bias-motivated crimes of violence. The federal law passed both houses of Congress in 2007 with bipartisan support, but then-President George W. Bush threatened to veto the bill and congressional leaders dropped it.

Earlier this month, Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, a Michigan Democrat, and Illinois Republican U.S. Rep. Mark Kirk introduced the bill again. The bill’s supporters are confident it will become law this year because President Barack Obama has said he will sign it.

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Ernest Luning

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