Matthew Shepard’s ashes interred in Washington
Free Press wire reports | 11/1/2018, 6 a.m.
After 20 years without a permanent resting place, the remains of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student whose brutal murder in 1998 in Wyoming has come to symbolize the plight of the LGBTQ community in America, were interred at the Washington National Cathedral.
More than 2,000 people gathered Oct. 26, at the Episcopal cathedral to celebrate Mr. Shepard’s life, mourn his death and honor his memory.
The service offered a measure of closure for Mr. Shepard’s parents who, until now, hadn’t found a spot that seemed suitable or safe enough to rest their child’s remains. It also provided a moment of unity and collective grieving for those in the LGBTQ community, for whom Mr. Shepard’s death has for decades represented the pain and discrimination many experienced themselves.
Mr. Shepard was an acolyte in his local Episcopalian church, and when Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop consecrated in the Episcopal church suggested the National Cathedral as a fitting resting place for Matthew’s ashes, his family agreed.
“Matt loved the church,” said Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father. “Matt was blind, just like this beautiful house of worship. He did not see skin color. He did not see religion. He did not see sexual orientation. All he saw was a chance to have another friend.”
Mr. Shepard was found badly beaten and barely breathing, tied to a split-rail fence on a dirt road near Laramie, Wyo. He’d spent 18 hours there in the near-freezing cold before a cyclist discovered him, at first mistaking him for a scarecrow. He died five days later. Police said his attackers targeted him because he was gay.
In October 2009, then President Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding the federal law to include crimes based on a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability.
But last week’s interment comes at a fraught moment for the LGBTQ community in America. The Trump administration has taken steps to restrict protections, including trying to reinstate a ban on transgender individuals in the military and rescinding guidance for schools receiving federal funding on how to treat transgender students.