February 21, 2017

Director of Matthew Shepard Foundation to speak at SIU

by Pete Rosenbery

Jason MarsdenCARBONDALE, Ill. -- Jason Marsden, executive director of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, will speak at Southern Illinois University Carbondale on March 1 as part of the SIU School of Law Diversity and Inclusion Week. 

Marsden will present “A Discussion About Hate Crimes” at 5 p.m. in the law school’s Hiram H. Lesar Law Building Auditorium. The event is free and the public is invited.

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to cover the lecture. To arrange for interviews or for more information, contact Alicia Ruiz, the law school’s director of communications and outreach, at 618/453-8700. 

Matthew Shepard was beaten by two men in an anti-gay hate crime and left for dead in freezing temperatures near Laramie, Wyo., in October 1998. Matthew, who was 21 and a student at the University of Wyoming at the time, died five days later. The foundation was started by Shepard’s parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard. Judy Shepard spoke at SIU Carbondale in December 2005. 

The SIU School of Law, the Shepard Foundation, and OUTlaw, a registered student organization at the law school that focuses on issues affecting LGBTQT persons by providing support and advocacy in an inclusive environment, are event sponsors. 

Marsden will discuss the details behind Shepard’s murder and how it impacted the rise of advocacy for hate-crimes legislation, Timothy Woemmel, a second-year law school student and OUTlaw co-chair, said. Marsden will also give detailed information on the foundation’s work and present hate crime statistics that are inclusive of different biases, not just sexual orientation, Woemmel said. 

Woemmel, who helped start OUTlaw last year, said the group has been working since October to bring Marsden to campus. The discussion will not only focus on sexual orientation hate crimes, but will include crimes based on race, religion and ethnicity. It is an opportunity for a forum on the importance of tougher sentences for crimes committed with bias, Woemmel said. 

“I want people to walk away knowing that crime based on hate happens every day,” he said. “Gay men and women are specifically targeted only because of their love for another of same sex and are often left beaten, bloodied and abandoned to die. I hope the audience leaves with a sense of understanding that hate as an element of crime cannot be tolerated in a free society and those who practice hate or bias against others in commission of a crime deserve strict punishment for their actions.” 

All of the events during the law school’s “Diversity and Inclusion Week” are free and open the public, although lunch, where applicable, will be provided only for law school students. 

Other events are:

  • Monday, Feb. 27 -- 12:20 p.m., “Divided We Stand: Unequal We Will Fall” with guest speakers, attorneys Anthony Gray and Rufus Tate. SIU School of Law, Room 102.
  • March 2 -- 12:20 p.m., “Financial Management for Early Stages of Legal Career Workshop” with Professor Jennifer Brobst. Law school courtroom.
  • March 2 -- 5:30 p.m., “Separation of Church and State and Secular Issues” with Richard Katskee, legal director for Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Law school auditorium.