LGBTQ advocates Judy and Dennis Shepard, whose son Matthew was murdered in Wyoming for his sexual orientation twenty years ago, recently joined Sixth District Democratic Congressional candidate Jennifer Lewis at a fundraiser in Staunton.
Wyoming may be a long way away from the 6th District congressional district in western Virginia but Judy Shepard sees a close ally in Democratic candidate Jennifer Lewis. "Her support of the LGBTQ community is extra important to us," Judy Shepard told a group gathered at a Lewis fundraiser.
Since their son Matthew’s murder, the Shepards have devoted much of their lives to LGBTQ advocacy. Next year marks the ten year anniversary of the federal Shepard-Byrd Hate Crimes Prevention Act.
Judy Shepard is concerned those gains are slipping under the current administration. "What we didn’t get accomplished is non-discrimination in hiring and firing so your job is still not protected in 25 states. In Wyoming, you can get married one day and fired the next," Shepard said. "So this is not an equal playing field for the gay community and we need to fix that."
Democratic candidate Jennifer Lewis says she is thankful for the Shepard’s support.
Her opponent, Republican Ben Cline, did not respond to requests to be included in this story. In the past, Cline voted in favor of a 2016 bill prohibiting discrimination based on certain religious beliefs such as the belief that marriage is the union between one man and one woman.
Regardless of who constituents vote for, Lewis says she wants people in the sixth district to get out and vote this November. "That’s the only way we can restore the power to the people, restore our democracy, get people in office that really reflect what the 6th District looks like," Lewis said.