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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, August 10 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 32
Goodwill ambassadors
Section One
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Goodwill ambassadors

Matthew Shepard's parents to visit six European embassies and consulates

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

The Matthew Shepard Foundation announced this week that Judy and Dennis Shepard, Matthew's parents, will visit U.S. embassies and consulates in six European countries beginning later this month.

The upcoming trip is a unique opportunity for the Shepards to share the story of Matthew's murder, their tireless advocacy for the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, and the continued work of the Foundation to promote acceptance and encourage respect for human dignity for all.

It has been a priority of the U.S. State Department under the leadership of Secretary Hillary Clinton to advocate for greater LGBT dignity and equality around the globe.

'Judy and Dennis will advance that work as they meet local LGBT leaders to help build a core group of parents and families of LGBT individuals to act as straight allies,' said Matthew Shepard Foundation officials in an August 9 media release. 'They will also meet with local press, government officials, Foreign Service Officers, and educators in the cities with embassies or consulates, as well as smaller surrounding communities.'

The Shepards will begin their trip in late August in Brussels, Belgium. They will then travel to Warsaw, Poland, a country that, unlike the U.S., allows Gay and Bisexual men to donate blood. Judy and Dennis will also visit Riga, Latvia, where LGBT people do not enjoy protection from discrimination in any aspect of life other than employment.

Tallinn, Estonia, is the next planned stop. Estonia's first LGBT center, where the couple will be speaking, opened only last year. The Shepards will also speak at Tallinn University, where they plan to discuss cooperation between LGBT activists and academic researchers, a topic of special interest to the university. From there, they will travel to Budapest, Hungary, where a newly adopted national constitution includes a ban on marriage equality.

The 27-day tour will end in Munich, Germany, where the Constitutional Court has just ordered that same-sex couples be treated the same under tax law as married straight couples.

Judy and Dennis say they are excited to communicate the foundation's message of 'Replacing Hate with Understanding, Compassion, and Acceptance' with people who might never have heard Matthew's story. By sharing it, they hope to help energize LGBT leaders in countries where the struggle for equality is just beginning.

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