Date of Award

Fall 12-2020

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Dr. Paul Strait

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Laura Alberti

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. Laura Stengrim

Committee Member 3 School



Since Matthew Shepard’s murder in 1998, his narrative has been recirculated to justify a federal hate crime statute and Shepard has been used as a symbol for the demand for hate crime legislation. This study seeks to evaluate how Shepard is used in public deliberation, the role of private organizations in the public deliberation of hate crime legislation, and the discursive history of the Shepard-Byrd Hate Crime Prevention Act of 2009. Through a rhetorical criticism, this study finds that the nuances of Shepard’s narrative are abandoned in order to construct him as a “permissible” symbol for LGBTQ+ protections. However, if the permissibility of the symbol is violated, the discourse surrounding Shepard becomes polemic. Second, I argue that private organizations are not only used to advocate on the behalf of private citizens, but in the case of hate crime prevention organizations, they are dually asked with being the primary center of information for private citizens. Finally, I argue that the legislative discourse surrounding HCPA’s communicate to the public the government’s position on the inclusion of vulnerable communities.