Matthew Shepard, whose death 20 years ago shocked a nation and led to national hate crime legislation, will have his ashes interred at the Washington National Cathedral after a service remembering him, WRC-TV reported.
Shepard’s parents decided on the National Cathedral as his resting place because their son felt welcomed in the Episcopal church that he attended in Wyoming, according to the television station.
The gay college student, who was 21 at the time, was murdered in 1998 after being badly beaten by two men, tied to a fence, and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming, WRC-TV wrote.
“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,” Judy Shepard, his mother said in a statement posted the Matthew Shepard Foundation website.
“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,” she continued.
The foundation was created after Shepard’s death in an effort to create “understanding, compassion, and acceptance” about the LGBTQ community. The foundation stated that it empowers individuals to find a voice to create change and challenge communities to identify and address hate against the community.
The website stated that Shepard will be one of about 200 people who have been interred in the Cathedral over the past 100 years. He will join President Woodrow Wilson; Bishop Thomas Claggett, the first Episcopal Bishop ordained on American soil; Helen Keller, and her teacher Anne Sullivan; and U.S. Navy Admiral George Dewey on the grounds.
“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 neighbors for who they are,” the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, head of the Washington National Cathedral, said in a statement on the foundation’s website.
“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 honored and humbled to serve as his final resting place,” the statement continued.
The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009 was enacted to provide funding and technical assistance to state, local, and tribal jurisdictions to help them more effectively investigate and prosecute hate crimes, according to a Department of Justice statement.
It also created a new federal criminal law that criminalized willfully causing bodily injury because of a person’s actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.