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Demonstration at the White House to Take Place Today Before Signing of Matthew Shepard Amendment

(WASHINGTON D.C.) Parents of gays and lesbians, teachers and activists carrying photos of hate crime murder victims including Harvey Milk and Matthew Shepard will demonstrate in front of the White House today, from noon to 2 P.M., prior to President Obama signing the Matthew Shepard Amendment.

The demonstration focuses national attention on the increase in gay hate crime murders and over 16,000 hate crimes committed against gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) Americans since Matthew Shepard’s death in 1998.

According to the National Coalition of Anti-Violence Programs, in 2008 there were 29 hate crime murders of GLBT Americans. Since 1998, there have been an average of about 1,450 GLBT hate crimes per year.

“Homophobia has fueled carnage since Matthew Shepard’s murder 11 years ago,” states Malcolm Lazin, Executive Director of Equality Forum. “The Matthew Shepard Amendment is the beginning, not the end, in recognizing, addressing and eliminating homophobia in our schools, neighborhoods and culture.”

"We applaud those in Congress and President Obama who support the Matthew Shepard Amendment," stated Susan Wheeler of Lebanon, Pennsylvania, the mother of James Wheeler. "My son took his life after being repeatedly harassed in high school. He was surrounded in the locker room and urinated on. Jim never recovered from that humiliation."

"We demonstrate as a reminder of the over 16,000 hate crime victims since Matthew's brutal murder," stated Michael and Barbara Klinman of Havertown, Pennsylvania, who are parents of a gay son. "These crimes are intended to intimidate the GLBT community and their ferocity impacts the soul of America."

"As we carry the photos of murder victims of GLBT hate crimes, we stand in for those whose lives have been silenced," stated Carol Watchler, GLSEN Central New Jersey Co-Chair. "We demonstrate because we are concerned about the safety of youth. We want to ensure that gay and lesbian children are not hate crime statistics and can live without fear of homophobic violence."