The ashes of Matthew Shepard, the Wyoming man who was brutally beaten and murdered in a homophobic attack in 1998, will be interred at Washington National Cathedral.
The 21-year-old college student’s murder sparked national outrage and turned him into a symbol of deadly violence and homophobia gay people routinely faced.
“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, Matthew’s mother, said in the statement shared with NBC News.
“I think it’s the perfect, appropriate place,” Dennis Shepard, Matthew’s father, said in an interview on Thursday. “We are, as a family, happy and relieved that we now have a final home for Matthew, a place that he himself would love.”
The interment service will take place on Oct. 26 and will be presided over by the Right Rev. Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal bishop of Washington, and the Right Rev. V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay bishop in the Anglican Communion, reports The New York Times.
“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,” said the Very Rev. Randolph Marshall Hollerith, dean of Washington National Cathedral. “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.”
In 2009, President Barack Obama signed “The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act of 2009” that expanded the 1968 Civil Rights Act to include hate crimes committed because of a person’s sexuality, disability or gender identity, in addition to a person’s race, color, religion or national origin.