As part of the 25th Commemorative Year, we will be highlighting our dedicated Board of Directors, interviewing each of them to learn more about their passion for the Foundation, how being on the Board has impacted their lives, and what they see for the future of MSF.
Becky Monroe is a civil rights attorney who has worked for almost twenty years with leaders at the federal, state, and local level to combat hate and support the development of community-centered responses to hate incidents and hate crimes. Becky has been fortunate to see the extraordinary team at the Matthew Shepard Foundation in action fighting hate and demanding accountability through her work with the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and national civil rights organizations.
Becky has served as the director of the Fighting Hate and Bias Project at the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. She was previously the director of the Divided Community Project, supporting local leaders in addressing the reasons underlying community division, including racism, anti-LGBT hate, and other forms of discrimination. Before that, Becky launched the Stop Hate Project at the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. She joined the Lawyers’ Committee after working for almost eight years for the Obama administration. At the DOJ, she was the director for policy and planning and senior counselor to the assistant attorney general for civil rights. She also worked at the White House Domestic Policy Council as a senior policy advisor on civil rights issues where her portfolio included LGBT rights and enhancing the response to hate crimes. And as acting director of the DOJ’s Community Relations Service, she led implementation of its expanded statutory mandate under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act to support communities combating hate.
Before joining the government, Becky was the director of the Employment Rights Project at Bet Tzedek Legal Services in California, where she represented undocumented immigrant workers and women trafficked for labor.
How has your experience as an MSF Board Member impacted you personally and/or professionally?
I still remember the first time I saw Judy and Dennis speak at a USDOJ training on hate crimes in 2010, just a few months after they stood next to President Obama when he signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act. I was working as a civil rights lawyer in the Obama Administration, and I felt the impact Judy and Dennis had on every law enforcement leader and federal official in the room. No one left that training without recognizing our shared obligation to do more to combat hate and to do justice for Matthew and his family and for all people targeted for hate. When Judy stood in the White House on the 5th Anniversary of the Shepard Byrd Act and called out the abysmal failure of government and law enforcement leaders to effectively report and combat hate, I saw the power of love and of an unyielding commitment to help other people targeted for hate. I felt the power of Matthew and his story.
So, it has truly been the personal and professional honor of a lifetime to be a member of the Board of the Matthew Shepard Foundation. As a mother and a civil rights lawyer, I continue to learn from Judy and Dennis and the extraordinary staff and supporters of MSF about what it looks like to make real a commitment to civil rights and to creating a more just and caring world.
What do you believe has been the Foundation’s greatest achievement over the past 25 years?
It is impossible to identify just one achievement because under Judy’s leadership and with Dennis’ support, the work of the Foundation has been part of some of the greatest civil rights achievements over the last 25 years. The Foundation was pivotal in the campaign for and the passage of the groundbreaking Matthew Shepard Act, which, for the first time in federal law, established protections for persons targeted for violence on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity. The work of MSF inspired the people fighting for civil rights for the LGBTQ community and for all. Over the last two and a half decades, we have seen these leaders fight for marriage equality, for trans rights, and for the recognition of LGBTQ rights as central to human and civil rights in our country and across the world. The Foundation has also demonstrated that the struggle for LGBTQ rights is deeply interconnected with the struggle for racial justice and for immigrant justice and for justice for all.
What do you see as the Foundation’s greatest opportunity or responsibility as we move into the future?
As we move into the future and see some of the most basic and fundamental rights of the LGBTQ community, including LGBTQ communities of color, under direct attack, the Foundation must continue to translate Matthew’s legacy and story into action. Whether through powerful and transformative artistic works inspired by Matthew and supported by the Foundation and the Shepard Family, support for and celebration of the extraordinary talent and power of LGBTQ youth through Matthew’s Place, through hate crimes training and programming for law enforcement and other government leaders, or speaking engagements that change hearts and minds, the Foundation will continue to inspire all people to do more to combat hate. The Foundation has the opportunity to help bring people together from across different communities to work together to combat growing efforts to divide us and to advance civil rights protections at the state and federal level. The Foundation will support and celebrate the next generation of LGBTQ leaders and expand efforts to meet the needs of all people targeted for hate.