According to BBC, Matthew Shepard was finally given a resting place, “20 years after he was brutally beaten and killed because of his sexuality.”
Over 10 years after his death, the Matthew Shepard Act was passed, “expanding hate crime laws to include sexual orientation.”
Matthew’s services were open to the public and were held at the Washington National Cathedral. Hundreds of mourners were in attendance.
His internment at the Washington National Cathedral means more than just a burial. It stands as a statement, especially in light of the fact that his ashes were “kept at home all these years for fear a memorial site would be desecrated.” But more than that, the Cathedral itself represents so much more than a house of religion. It is also the final resting place of Helen Keller and President Woodrow Wilson. According to Washingtonian, the Cathedral is donned with statues of Rosa Parks and Mother Teresa, and “Martin Luther King delivered his last Sunday sermon from the cathedral pulpit in 1968” before his death. The Washington National Cathedral has been a place that has seen and honors change-makers. Although he sadly had no choice in the matter, Matthew Shepard was a change-maker, and he has been honored as such.
Gene Robinson, who is “the first openly gay Episcopal bishop,” presided over the services. He tearfully spoke of Matt’s luck as a gay man in the late 20th century, despite his brutal outcome: “He had parents and a brother who loved him. He loved his church…and they loved him back.”
To provide the music, the Cathedral invited the Gay Men’s Chorus, GenOUT, and Conspirare.
Reverend Robinson was not the only tearful one at the Cathedral on October 26. Family, friends, and strangers mourned the loss and honored the life of a man whose life and death are still relevant, present, and ever-important.
Matthew’s internment comes at a time of grave divide in the United States about the rights and protections those in the LGBTQ+ community are entitled to. “The Trump administration is considering redefining gender as the genitalia one is born with,” which would widely and negatively affect over 1 million transgender people, according to the BBC. It is the hopes of the LGBTQ+ community that Shepard’s interment will stand as a reminder of what happened two decades ago when someone’s right to live was taken away on account of who they were.