In this guest column for GayPolitics.com, Judy Shepard comments on the now-infamous remarks made by Oklahoma state Rep. Sally Kern.
Sally Kern’s comments hit me like a punch to the gut. I was enormously saddened that someone—anyone, really, but especially an elected official—could say such mean things about other human beings. We have so much to deal with already—the incessant dreary news about war, about the economy, about shocking crimes. I’m amazed that someone like Sally Kern found the time to push a whole new theory about who we should fear.
But as despicable as Sally Kern’s ideas are, she is of course free to shout them from the rooftops. One of the oddest responses of people who agree with her has been that we are trying to restrict her freedom of speech. In reality, the Victory Fund gave her a megaphone. If she’s that proud of her speech, she must be thrilled that more than 1 million people have listened to it.
No, the question isn’t whether she has a right to spew hateful rhetoric. The question is whether she ought to.
My son died nearly ten years ago at the hands of people whose hatred changed many lives that day. It hardened hearts and brought others to their knees. It shook a nation and enraged millions. At that time, I knew there was a window of opportunity that I could use Matthew’s story and my voice in replacing hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. Through the Matthew Shepard Foundation, we are reaching young people who are at risk of being poisoned by the dark ideas of people like Sally Kern.
I don’t know why Sally Kern is proud of comparing gay people to cancer or terrorism, but count me as someone who’s listening now to people like her. She may be free to say people like my son are a threat to America, but when she does she puts other mothers’ sons in danger. I pray she doesn’t say it anymore.