Shepard is the co-founder of the Matthew Shepard Foundation, an organization dedicated to diversity awareness and gay and transgender equality. Her appearance is a joint project by the library, the Utah Pride Center and Sam Weller’s Bookstore.
“We’re very excited to have her come,” said John Clukey, the bookstore’s Event’s Coordinator, who described Shepard’s appearance as the result of “lots of emailing and due diligence and success with other events we’ve done.”
“The West has a big spot in her heart and I think she knows the necessity of campaigning out there as well as in Washington,” he said.
Jennifer Nuttall, the Utah Pride Center’s Adult Programs Director, agreed and noted Shepard’s importance to nationwide gay and transgender rights activism.
“She’s been an amazing activist and I think she really touches people’s hearts,” she said. “This is a story people can relate to, and she goes a long way in changing the hearts and minds of the community.”
Shepard is the leading non-elected advocate of the Matthew Shepard Act, which would extend federal hate crimes protections based on actual or perceived sexual orientation and gender identity. The bill passed the Senate in July and now awaits a house vote. She is also the author of The Meaning of Matthew, which recounts the days following her son’s murder and his elevation to gay rights icon over the past decade, her and husband Dennis’ struggle to bring his killers to justice, and her journey from small town mother to national gay rights activist. The book was released in August by Hudson Street Press, an imprint of the Penguin Group. It is available at Sam Weller’s, where it was the September selection of Queereads, the in-house gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender book club.