This evening Tennessee Transgender Political Coalition President Marisa Richmond and I observed the 10th anniversary of Matthew Shepard's death by making the trip to Chattanooga for the annual hate crimes vigil, which is one of the opening events of Tennessee Valley Pride. Several of the recent Tennessee hate crimes involving members of Tennessee's gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community were remembered. Speakers urged Chattanoogans to do more to persuade Tennessee's congressional delegation, especially former Chattanooga Mayor and current Senator Bob Corker, to be more supportive of the Matthew Shepard Act. At the end of the event, the crowd drew close to share their hopes for working together to make all citizens of our State safe from bias-motivated violence and finally extinguished their candles.
The vigil was an important step in breaking the isolation that members of our community often feel outside Memphis, Knoxville, and Nashville. This isolation is a major obstacle to greater advocacy for equality.