Matthew Shepard honoured with burial at Washington National Cathedral
Matthew Shepard’s remains will be interred at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 years after his death.
Shepard was beaten, tortured and murdered in Laramie, Wyoming on October 12 1998, at the age of 21.
His death brought national attention to anti-LGBT+ discrimination and eventually led to the 2009 Matthew Shepard Act, which broadened federal hate crime legislation to include sexual orientation and gender identity.
On October 26, he will be laid to rest in a cathedral which has only buried around 200 people in the past century, including US President Woodrow Wilson and activist Helen Keller.
The thanksgiving and remembrance service in Washington DC will be presided over by Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to become a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
Matthew’s mother, Judy Shepard, has become an outspoken campaigner for LGBT+ equality, starting the Matthew Shepard Foundation with her husband Dennis and consistently speaking out in favour of rights for queer people.
She condemned the “hatred” of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2016, before strongly criticising the removal of LGBT+ protections in the US last year.
She said: “We’ve given much thought to Matt’s final resting place, and we found the Washington National Cathedral is an ideal choice, as 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.”
Washington National Cathedral’s dean, Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, said that Americans still have work to do to reject the hatred which led to Matthew’s murder two decades ago.
“Matthew Shepard’s death is an enduring tragedy affecting all people and should serve as an ongoing call to the nation to reject anti-LGBTQ bigotry and instead embrace each of our neighbours for who they are,” he said.
“In the years since Matthew’s death, 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.”
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Speaking last year as they condemned Trump’s moves to ban transgender servicepeople from the military and take away the right of trans students to use their bathroom of choice, Judy and Dennis Shepard urged the public to focus on “those who are being discriminated against now.
“There is nothing more we can do for Matt, but we can continue to do good work in his memory and try to prevent the same thing from happening to other people’s children.”
They continued: “A collective grief and outrage has awakened among the LGBTQ+ community and its allies after endless decades of cruelty and exclusion.
“It feels pretty obvious that this community is being targeted again. How can this be? How can it be 2017, and still we don’t have full equality?”