The ashes of Matthew Shepard were interred at the National Cathedral in Washington Friday, giving him a “home that is safe” 20 years after his brutal murder, his father said.
“To the National Cathedral, I cannot thank you enough … for leading the way and showing acceptance and inclusiveness for any and all who enter these grounds,” Shepard’s father, Dennis Shepard, said at a remembrance ceremony at the cathedral ahead of the internment.
“We as a family are very honored and indebted to you for coming for showing your concern for wanting to honor Matt, his memory, his legacy, his belief that we are all equal,” Dennis Shepard told those who attended the remembrance ceremony.
In October 1998, Matthew Shepard, 21, was abducted, beaten, tied to a fence and left to die in Wyoming for being openly gay.
He died several days later and the two attackers were sent to prison.
The killing brought national awareness to the dangers that members of the LGBTQ community face every day.
The murder also shined a light on the scope of federal hate crime laws, which at the time did not include crimes that targeted people because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, which added crimes motivated by the victim’s gender, sexual orientation, gender identity and disability to federal hate crime laws.
At Friday’s ceremony, Dennis Shepard said his son “loved the church.”
“He loved the ceremony. He loved the fact that it was a safe place for anyone who wanted to enter, that it was a welcoming place for anyone who wanted to enter, it was a place of acceptance for anyone who wanted to enter,” he said.
“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,” Dennis Shepard said.
After the public service, the Shepard family attended a private interment service in the cathedral’s crypt.
Dennis Shepard said it’s important to “have a home for Matt.”
“A home that others can visit, a home that is safe from haters. A home that he loved dearly,” he said. “We sincerely hope and pray that you will come here often, not just to reflect on Matt but to reflect on others you love dearly.”