Tag Archives: LGBT

Matthew Shepard Murder

Matthew Shepard Murder

October 6, 1998

Before Laramie

The story of Matthew Shepard. He was born in Casper, Wyoming on December 1, 1976 to Judy and Dennis Shepard. He and his family moved to Saudia Arabia when he was a high school junior, but Matthew finished school at the American School in Switzerland because there were no American high schools in Saudi Arabia. 

Matthew was well-liked by his fellow students in both high schools

After graduating from high school and attending a couple different colleges, Matt moved back to Wyoming where he studied political science, foreign relations and languages at the University of Wyoming in Laramie.

Matthew Shepard Murder

On October 6, 1998  Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, strangers to Matthew, met him at the Fireside Lounge in Laramie. Because of his small stature, McKinney and Henderson figured Shepard would be easy to rob. 

They said they'd give a ride home but drove to a rural area where they tied him to a split-rail fence, beat him severely with the butt of a .357 Smith & Wesson pistol, and left him to die in the near-freezing temperatures of the early morning hours of October 7.

18 hour later Aaron Kreifels, a biker, discovered Shepard. So badly beaten that Kreifels at thought Shepard was a scarecrow.  Shepard was still alive but comatose.  

Medics rushed him 65 miles to Fort Collins, Colorado where he remained in a coma for four days. Doctors pronounced him dead at 12:53 A.M. on October 12, 1998. He was 21 years old.
Westboro Baptist Church
On October 17, the Shepard family buried Matthew. Fred Phelps, leader of the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kansas, took his church's "God Hates Fags" message to the funeral. Two of his picket signs read: "No Tears for Queers" and "Fag Matt in Hell."
Life sentences
On April 5, 1999 Russell Henderson pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Aaron McKinney to avoid the death penalty; Henderson would receive two consecutive life sentences. 

The jury in McKinney's trial found him guilty of felony murder. As they began to deliberate on the death penalty, Shepard's parents brokered a deal, resulting in McKinney receiving two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole.
Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act
On April 3, 2001 Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. The bill died when it failed to advance in the Subcommittee on Crime.  

On April 2, 2004 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee.

On May 26, 2005 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act reintroduced. It failed to advance in committee. 

On March 30, 2007 The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  reintroduced a fourth time. The 2007 version of the bill added gender identity to the list of suspect classes for prosecution of hate crimes. The bill was again referred to the Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism and Homeland Security. 

On May 3, 2007. The House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, but the bill got stuck in Senate committee. 

On September 27, 2007, the Senate passed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act  as an amendment to another bill. President George W Bush indicated he would veto the legislation if it reached his desk. Democratic leadership dropped the amendment because of opposition from conservative groups and President George Bush.

President Barak Obama

Matthew Shepard Murder

On April 2, 2009 Rep John Conyers for a fifth time introduced the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. It has the support of President Obama. 

On October 28, 2009 President Obama signed the Act as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010. The measure expanded the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim's actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. 

Matthew Shepard Foundation

During the years that followed Shepard's brutal murder, the Shepard family received donations from all over the world. They decided to begin the Matthew Shepard Foundation. It's mission is to empower individuals to embrace human dignity and diversity through outreach, advocacy and resource programs. It strives to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. [link to MSF]
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Oliver W Sipple

Oliver W Sipple

San Francisco, September 22, 1975

Sara Jane Moore

Oliver W Sipple
mugshot of Sara Jane Moore
Two Michigan guys and a mom
Two Michigan guys, strangers to each other, got out of two different beds on September 22, 1975. Neither imagined that someone was about to intertwine their lives forever. That someone was Sara Jane Moore. She got up that morning intending to assassinate President Gerald Ford. Moore put on baggy tan pants and a neatly pressed blue raincoat. A 45-year-old mother of four packing a chrome revolver.

Oliver W Sipple

President Fort had addressed a conference at the St. Francis Hotel in downtown San Francisco. Outside was Oliver W Sipple, a 33-year-old ex-marine, twice-wounded in Vietnam. He  happened to be downtown that day and thought, "Why not stick around and see the President." As the President left the hotel, Sipple was standing near Moore when he noticed her outstretched arm holding a revolver. Sipple yelled "The bitch has got a gun" and lunged at her. The bullet missed Ford and hit a cab driver who, fortunately, was only wounded.

With so much media around, a picture caught the moment: Sipple on the far left, Moore circled in red.

Oliver W Sipple


President Ford sent a letter to Sipple. It said in part, 

“I want you to know how much I appreciated your selfless actions last Monday…. The events were a shock to us all, but you acted quickly and without fear for your own safety.

“By doing so you helped to avert danger to me and to others in the crowd. You have my heartfelt appreciation.”


Navy veteran Harvey Milk was openly gay and active in San Francisco politics, He saw Sipple's bravery as an opportunity to demonstrate that a gay person could also be a hero. Milk contacted San Francisco journalist Herb Caen. A few day's later, Caen wrote about Milk, Sipple, and Sipple being gay. The new component to Sipple's life went national.

Being a gay ex-Marine who displayed bravery both in uniform and again as a civilian sadly changed the story's arc. For many, it somehow tempered their view of that courage, even in San Francisco, a place more (but not completely) tolerant of gays.

On September 29, William Safire wrote in the New York Times, "Mr. Sipple is guilty of committing heroism in public, and is trying to hold on to the last shreds of the privacy that was stripped from him as a consequence of his selfless act. He is probably under family pressure to go one way, and under peer‐group pressure to go the other, with publicity stakes fairly high. He will think twice before he does any good deed again."

Until his brave act, Sipple's parents did not know of is sexual orientation. Finding out, his parents disowned him and later when Sipple's mother died, Mr Sipple told his son he was not welcome to attend the funeral.

Keep in mind that on September 19th, just three days before the assassination attempt, a three‐member panel of Air Force officers took 4 hours 27 minutes  to conclude that T.Sgt. Leonard P. Matlovich, gay, was unfit for military service. 


Sipple sued the Chronicle for invasion of privacy. The Superior Court in San Francisco dismissed the suit. Sipple continued his legal battle. In May 1984 the California Supreme Court refused to reinstate his invasion-of-privacy suit. His lawyer said that Sipple would have been better off ''if he had let that woman shoot.''


Oliver W. Sipple death is listed as February 2, 1989. That is the day authorities discovered his body. He had likely been dead for a few days. He was 47. 

Papers reported that he had received treatment for schizophrenia, alcoholism and several other health problems. He weighed nearly 300 pounds when he died. His apartment was in the Tenderloin area of San Francisco, a mainly low rent district. Sipple's days then consisted of getting up and going to a bar to drink.

On the wall of his apartment hung the framed letter from Ford.

President Ford, the man who pardoned the un-convicted President who'd broken laws as President, had never invited the man who saved his live to the White House. Some conjectured that that failure was due to Sipple's sexual orientation. The President said his letter had been enough.

Oliver W Sipple


Oliver W Sipple

Sara Jane Moore pleaded guilty. At her sentencing to life in prison she stated "Am I sorry I tried? Yes and no. Yes, because it accomplished little except to throw away the rest of my life. And, no, I'm not sorry I tried, because at the time it seemed a correct expression of my anger."

Moore escaped from prison in 1979 for a few hours. She later said, "If I knew that I was going to be captured...I would have stopped at the local bar just to get a drink and a burger."

On December 31, 2007, Moore, 77, was released from prison on parole after serving 32 years of her life sentence. When the media asked about her crime Moore stated, "I am very glad I did not succeed. I know now that I was wrong to try."

In May 2009, NBC's Matt Lauer interviewed her on the "Today Show." (NYT article)

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Daughters of Bilitis

Daughters of Bilitis 

from Claude Debussy,  “Trois Chansons de Bilitis”
founded September 21, 1955

Daughters of Bilitis

Deep history

On Museum tours at the Bethel Woods Center for the Arts I try to emphasize to guests that the many movements  we associate the 60s with were not new. What was historic was the chronological convergence of so many movements.

And so it is with the gay rights movement. Most people think of the so-called Stonewall Riots in July 1969 as the beginning of LGBTQ activism. It certainly is an important milepost, but not the beginning.

Like any view contrary to the status quo's view, the idea that homosexuality is a normal human trait, not an illness, not an immoral lifestyle, has deeper roots than 1969. And as progressive-appearing as the following chronology is, keep in mind that there were far more homophobic  incidents and politically- biased initiatives than positive during the time period.
  • in 1910 anarchist Emma Goldman spoke of the need for acceptance.
  • on December 10, 1924,  Henry Gerber founded  The Society for Human Rights in Chicago. It was the first US gay rights organization.
  • on January 5, 1948, Alfred Kinsey and his team published Sexual Behavior in the Human Male. It helped allow objective discussions  of homosexuality.
  • on November 11, 1950, in Los Angeles, gay rights activist Harry Hay founded the Mattachine Society. The Society aimed to “eliminate discrimination, derision, prejudice and bigotry,” to assimilate homosexuals into mainstream society, and to cultivate the notion of an “ethical homosexual culture.”
  • in January 1953, LGBT:  ONE, Inc. an early gay rights organization and associated with the Mattachine Society published the first  issue of ONE Magazine
  • on September. 14, 1953  Alfred Kinsey published a second study,  Sexual Behavior in the Human Female This one reported that “2 to 6% of females, aged 20-35, were more or less exclusively homosexual in experience/response.”

Daughters of Bilitis

And in San Francisco on September 21, 1955 the Daughters of Bilitis became the first lesbian rights organization in the US.
Pierre Louÿs
The name for the group came from an 1894 collection of  lesbian-themed poems, Les Chansons de BilitisPierre Louÿs. He said  the poems were his interpretation of poems that the ancient Greek poet Sappho wrote. Louÿs wrote that Sappho had found the poems on a wall and that a woman Bilitis wrote them. Louÿs was actually the original author. 


Del Martin and Phyllis Lyon were two of the founders.They simply wanted to dance together. That was against the law in 1955. One of Daughters of Bilitis's primary purposes (DOB) was to host social functions and to provide alternatives to the frequently-raided lesbian bars and clubs.

Though small in membership, the DOB had chapters across the US. As with any organization that society views as made up of perverted or sick individuals, those members differed in their views as to how to react. Should there even be a a reaction? Would any reaction simply bring more attention and more discrimination? Should a reaction be as strong as society's actions? 

Gradually the DOB became as much a political as social organization.

The Ladder

Daughters of Bilitis

In October 1956 DOB published the first issue of The Ladder. Lyon edited it initially under the pen name Ann Ferguson. The Ladder published until  1972.  Barbara Grier and the DOB president Rita LaPorte both felt a  stronger lesbian feminist stance was needed. Should the DOB align itself with male gay rights groups? And by 1972, the feminist movement was seen by many as equally if not more important. 
After 14 years the DOB dissolved, but it had helped continue the historic tradition of the LGBTQ community organizing and changing Society's views.



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