Austin mayor pushes for creation of LGBTQ commission

Austin Mayor Steve Adler has announced a plan to create a LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission. (Cropped Photo: Benson Kua / CC BY-SA 2.0)

Today, Austin Mayor Steve Adler announced his plans to create a LGBTQ Quality of Life Commission.

The announcement was made at the civic leadership forum on preventing and responding to bias in communities.

One of the speakers at the forum was Judy Shepard, mother of a hate crime victim who died after being brutally beaten because he was gay.

“He was funny, and smart and loved to argue,” Shepard said. “He wanted to change the world

Her son, Matthew Shepard was just 21 at the time.

Sheriff Dave O’Malley from Albany County Wyoming was the lead detective on the case and also spoke at the forum.

“They went into the bathroom they hatched a plan between to act like they were gay in order to befriend Matthew get him isolated and rob him,” he said.

Shepard was beaten and died from his injuries at the hospital. The trial of his murdered caught the attention of the nation. His story lead to the passage of hate crime legislation.

Shepard says there are still many struggles that lie ahead for the LGBTQ community. She is pushing to make the current hate crime laws tougher.

“It doesn’t require reporting we think people should be required to report on the federal level hate crimes that occur,” Shepard said.

The Austin Police Department has worked to encourage the LGBTQ community to report hate crimes. Last year, 58 hate crimes were reported to APD.

“The majority of them were not violence related,” Det. Michael Crumrine, president of the Austin Lesbian and Gay Peace Officers Association.

Det. Crumrine said the outreach has worked. He said a recent survey done with 500 people who identify as LGBTQ shows 95 percent now feel comfortable reporting crimes to police.

“I think that’s a really good tale tell sign of the relationship we have with the community,” he said.

Challenges remain as state leaders continue to push legislation viewed as anti-gay.

“That underlying message is not one of acceptance it is not one of understanding it is not one of compassion it is one of continuing the fear and hate moving forward,” Det. Crumrine said.

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