Twenty years ago this week, Matthew Shepard was beaten, burned and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming. He died five days later. Now, as reported by the NYT, his ashes are being laid to rest at the National Cathedral in Northwest Washington, D.C..
21 at the time of his death, Shepard was a political science major at the University of Wyoming Police when two 21-year-old men tortured him and tied him to a fence. The men were charged with murder, police at the time said it was motivated by robbery, though Shepard was singled out because he was gay.
Shepard’s death stirred nationwide and resulted in a federal law that made it a federal crime to assault someone because of his or her gender identity or sexual orientation. Shepard’s family and LGBTQ+ rights supporters around the globe have spread his legacy over two decades.
Shepard was cremated. His family didn’t want to bury him in Wyoming fearing it would become a pilgrimage site or be vandalized. Now, they are laying him to rest at the National Cathedral.
The Cathedral has long been supportive of LGBTQ+ people in the church. The official website says the Cathedral “considers LGBT equality the great civil rights issue of church in the 21st century”, and it hosted its first same-sex wedding in 2010.
The ceremony will be presided over by Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
About 200 people have been interred in the Cathedral in the past century, including President Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, Anne Sullivan and U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey.
"We're comforted to know he will be among other Americans who have done so much for our country," Shepard’s parents said. "This is incredibly meaningful for our family and for everyone who has known him.”
For more: The Matthew Shepard Foundation