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Matthew Shepard's Parents to Get First Edward M. Kennedy Leadership Award

Patrick Kennedy will give the first annual Edward M. Kennedy National Leadership Award to the parents of Matthew Shepard, tortured and killed near Laramie, Wyoming in 1998 because he was gay.

Kennedy will bestow the award at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner. President Obama will give the keynote address - just the second sitting president, after Bill Clinton, to appear before the gay rights group. From the Wall Street Journal:

The gay rights group said today that the president will give the keynote address at the 13th annual dinner where Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy will present the inaugural Edward M. Kennedy National Leadership Award to Judy and Dennis Shepard, the parents of Matthew Shepard.

“It is fitting that he will speak to our community on the night that we pay tribute to his friend and mentor Senator Edward Kennedy, who knew that as president, Barack Obama would take on the unfinished business of this nation – equal rights for the LGBT community, and for every person who believes in liberty and justice for all,” HRC President Joe Solmonese said in a statement.

The president’s nod to the gay community comes amid skepticism about his commitment to issues including the end of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy for the military and gay marriage rights, as well as criticism from social and religious conservatives for his selection of Kevin Jennings, who is openly gay, to serve as assistant deputy secretary for the Office of Safe and Drug Free Schools. Jennings co-founded the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in the 1990’s, a group that seeks to end harassment in schools based on sexual orientation.

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