Can Matthew Win Votes? with a TV Spot Featuring Matthew Shepard and His Mother, U.S. Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon Becomes the First Major-Party Candidate to Use His Support for Gay Rights in Campaign Advertising. (Politics)

Article excerpt

Four years after his murder, it isn't just gay people who remember Matthew Shepard. The blond-haired, blue-eyed young man is being increasingly cited and memorialized in places and contexts you'd never expect--such as the Miss America Pageant on September 21 when Miss Nevada, Teresa Benitez, recited a letter Matthew's father, Dennis Shepard, read in court to one of his son's killers.

Even more significant, Matthew is being mentioned in a television ad for Republican U.S. senator Gordon H. Smith's reelection campaign. In what appears to be a first for a major statewide candidate, the Oregon lawmaker has put forth his support for gay rights measures--federal hate-crimes legislation, in particular--as reason for voters to send him back to Washington, D.C. The 30-second commercial, which began airing in September, features a testimonial from Matthew's mother, Judy Shepard.

"My son Matthew was viciously murdered simply because he was gay," Shepard says as images of her son fill the screen. "Gordon Smith stands with me in the fight against hate. …