Last night Jess and I went to see a community college production of "The Laramie Project." This is a play based on the Matthew Shepard story.
For those that don't know Matthew was killed 10 years ago in Laramie, Wyoming for being gay. Unfortunately the things the play speaks about still happen much too often today. Just a few days ago a man was shot in Syracuse, NY while sitting in his car. The reason given by his shooter - was because he didn't like gay people. You can read more on the story here.
One thing that happens in the play is the Westboro Baptist Church, led by Fred Phelps, comes to protest the trial of one of Matt's killers. You will love the name of their website godhatesfags.com . If you go to their "church" website be prepared. The signs they hold at their protests are hateful. What I find most frightening is they bring their children and have them holding these signs and spewing this same hate.
Well Mr. Phelps decided to come and protest the play here in Arizona. The community did a call to action and we had over 300 gay, lesbian, transgender, and straight people there to counter protest. It was beautiful. Everyone wearing red and protecting the sidewalks so people felt safe to go to the show. In from of the theater everyone had giant angel wings on, just like they did at the court house, to block the sight of Phelps' hateful signs. Phelps' supporters did come - all 10 of them. However, they stayed so far away no one knew they were on the campus. Not being able to get near the parking lots, walkways, or theater they were pretty much shut down. The community college sold out the performance that night and got a standing ovation. A few of the actors were so overwhelmed by the crowd (80 had been the most to attend) and the ovation they broke down right on stage. I imagine some of those young people were gay and to see the support from their own community was just too much. There wasn't a dry eye in the place. An email received today from the technical director of the play commented on the irony "Our show sold out, THANKS WESTBORO BAPTIST CHURCH, we made a lot of
money off of your CRAZY ASSES!"
The video gives just a small part of the play. It's an important part if you don't know Matt's story. I encourage you to take a few minutes and watch it. If you haven't seen the whole play I encourage you to keep your eyes open for a local production. Also there is an HBO version that was made. Unfortunately, the story still speaks to what is happening now. 10 years after Matt's murder hate crimes law for LGBT people still has not gotten passed. It made it through Congress this year but President Bush vetoed it. He clearly doesn't know Judy Shepard. I have had the opportunity to meet and speak with her a few times. She is an amazing woman that has taken on this fight to protect the rest of us even though her son is gone. Everytime I see her I just want to say "I'm sorry we haven't gotten this done for you." 10 years is a long time to fight and tell about the death of your child over and over. Her speech to Congress and her being at the door when they walked into vote is what got the job done. I wish she could have been in the oval office. I'm not sure even George Bush would have vetoed the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Bill (yes that was the name of the piece of legislation) with her standing right there.
Kath & Jess with Judy Shepard
HRC Dinner 2006