In 1998, gay student Matthew Shepard was murdered in a brutal homophobic attack in Laramie, Wyoming by two men who pretended to be gay to win his trust.
The 21 year-old was offered a lift home by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. He was then robbed, punched in the head over 20 times and bashed with a .357 magnum pistol that Aaron McKinney was carrying.
Matthew was then tied to a fence where he hung for 18 hours until two passing cyclists found him. He died five days later in hospital.
His funeral was attended by mourners as well as homophobic picketers, and Matthew’s family never decided on a final resting place for him out of fear that it would be tarnished by homophobic vandals.
20 years later, on October 26 2018, Matthew will finally be put to rest at the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral in a private ceremony following a public remembrance service.
“Join the cathedral as we host a service of thanksgiving and remembrance for Matthew Shepard, whose brutal death in 1998 shocked the world, grieved the church and mobilised the LGBTQ movement,” the cathedral wrote on their website.
The Service of Thanksgiving and Remembrance for Matthew Shepard will be led by the Episcopal Church’s first openly gay bishop and an acquaintance of the Shepard family, Bishop Gene Robinson, as well as Bishop Marian Budde.
Dean of the cathedral, Rev Randy Hollerith, said in a press release, “The Shepard family has shown extraordinary courage and grace in keeping his spirit and memory alive, and the cathedral is honoured and humbled to serve as his final resting place.”
Matthew Shepard’s Mother Judy Shepard said, “Matt loved the Episcopal Church and felt welcomed by his church in Wyoming. For the past 20 years, we have shared Matt’s story with the world. It’s reassuring to know he now will rest in a sacred spot where folks can come to reflect on creating a safer, kinder world.”
Although Matthew’s internment will be a private event, the public remembrance service for him is expected to draw a crowd of between 1,500 and 2,000 people, and may become something of a pilgrimage stop within the LGBTQ community, said the cathedral’s chief communications officer, Kevin Eckstrom.
Matthew’s murder was so shocking that a law was introduced in his name, which allows prosecution of hate crimes against people because of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability.
© 2018 GCN (Gay Community News). All rights reserved.
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