Starting later this month, the Washington National Cathedral will host the remains of LGBTQ icon Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old University of Wyoming student whose brutal murder in the state in 1998 became a rallying cry in the fight for equality and led to an unprecedented federal anti-hate crime law bearing his name, the Washington Post reports. Shepard’s family cremated his body after his death and reportedly decided to place his ashes in the crypt of the Episcopal cathedral at someone’s suggestion. (Shepard was Episcopalian.)
“This could be a wonderful place for Matt’s ashes to rest, and where people could go and make a kind of pilgrimage,” Bishop Gene Robinson, a friend of the Shepards, told the Post. “All of us human beings need special places to go and remember important things, and I think this could become a destination for LGBTQ people who have known violence in their own lives, which keeps being an issue, despite all the gains we’ve made.” Friday is the 20th anniversary of Shepard’s murder, which happened on the night of Oct. 6, 1998, in Laramie.
His ashes will be installed at the National Cathedral on Oct. 26, according to the Post and the New York Times. A public service will be held at the church, where other famous American citizens are also interred: among them, Woodrow Wilson, Helen Keller, and George Dewey. Visitors cannot enter the crypt, but the church is considering a public plaque for Shepard.
The news comes on the 30th annual National Coming Out Day, and during a year in which the District has seen a number of assaults on LGBTQ people in popular areas. According to the Metropolitan Police Department, the number of reported hate crimes this year as of the end of August was up by nearly 25 percent as compared to the same period last year. Those based on sexual orientation and gender identity or expression saw upticks—to 37 from 32 in the first category and to 18 from 10 in the latter. Hate crimes have increased in recent years.
Known for its neo-Gothic design, the National Cathedral is the seat of the Episcopal Church.
- Matthew Shepard, whose 1998 murder became a symbol for the gay rights movement, will be interred at the Washington National Cathedral. [Washington Post]
- Religious Leaders Decry Wyoming Man’s Slaying [Los Angeles Times]
- Matthew Shepard Will Be Interred at the Washington National Cathedral, 20 Years After His Death [New York Times]
- Arrest made in 5th D.C. anti-gay assault since April [Washington Blade]
- D.C. police arrest suspect in 4th anti-gay assault since April [Washington Blade]
- Two D.C. men hospitalized after anti-gay attack [Washington Blade]
- Police investigate possible hate crime after LGBTQ community center is vandalized in D.C. [Washington Post]
- After U Street assault, DC police chief acknowledges rise in hate crimes [WTOP]