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In Memoriam

For Matthew Shepard and countless others, the work to erase hate continues

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Fifteen years ago, on the night of October 6, 1998, two men lured Matthew Wayne Shepard, a 21-year old college freshman at the University of Wyoming, from a bar in Laramie.

He was kidnapped, robbed, brutally beaten, tied to a fence and left die on the cold Wyoming prairie.

Matthew was discovered 18 hours later, and for the next five days, the world held vigil while Matthew lay in a coma in a hospital in Colorado.

And on this day in 1998, at 12:53 a.m., Matthew died — his family by his side.

Matthew

Matthew
December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998

Matthew’s death and the subsequent trial and convictions of his attackers incited demonstrations and debates over gay rights, and sparked renewed efforts to pass federal hate crimes legislation that included sexual orientation and gender identity.

For many, however, it revealed the dangers of being gay in America, and for the LGBTQ community, it reaffirmed the risk they live with every day.

In the 15 years since Matthew’s death, much has changed… and much has not.

In that time, millions of people around the world came to know about other hate crime victims through the lens of Matthew’s story.

His murder caused then President Bill Clinton to renew efforts to extend federal hate crime legislation to include LGBT individuals, women, and people with disabilities.

After nearly a decade of wrangling in the U.S. Congress, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers passed passed an LGBT-inclusive federal hate crimes bill in the fall of 2009 as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010.

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The Matthew Shepard-James C. Byrd Hate Crimes Act was signed into law on October 28, 2009 by President Barack Obama in a White House ceremony attended by Matthew’s parents — Dennis and Judy Shepard — who had fought for years for passage of the act.

Today, in the 15 years since his passing, the Matthew Shepard Foundation — established Dec. 1, 1998, on what would have been Matt’s 22 birthday — continues to fight homophobia through education and outreach.

The continued work of the Shepard family and the staff at the Foundation isn’t about Matthew anymore, but about what happened to him and what we do in his memory, says Judy Shepard.

And so for Matthew, and countless others, the work to erase hate continues.

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76 more reader comments:

  1. kool

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:02am
  2. If you want to go to the MSF Gala…contact http://www.matthewShepard.org ASAP! The Gala is TONIGHT!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:03am
  3. R.I.P.my family you are miss

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:04am
  4. Listen I know many ppl whom when to school wuth this kid one is my bff this kid was not beat up cause he was gay he was beat up by his drug dealer for not paying for his drugs he was heavy in meth and crack it had nothing to do with the fact he was gay!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:04am
  5. tammy, try listening to your own advice on your cover picture.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:18am
  6. You sound like a drunk, crack whore. Next time you want to pick on a dead kid, try me instead. You are a low-life, despicable piece of shit.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:21am
  7. And ps, go fuck yourself.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:25am
  8. he was beat up for a drug bill he owed.. HE WASNT BEAT TO DEATH BY 2 "HETEROSEXUAL" MEN FOR BEING GAY AND BECAUSE THEY TRIED ROBBING HIM..ONE OF THEM WAS SECRETLY SLEEPING WITH HIM AND WHEN SHIT HIT THE FAN THIS IS WHAT THEY DID.. TOOK A BEATIFUL MANS LIFE BECAUSE OF HIS INSECURTITES.. ONE LAST THING.. DONT BULLY THE DEAD..COME TO ME ND BULLY ME ND U CAN BRING YOUR PROPLE IF U MUST.. I WILL RAG THE SHIT OUTTA U U WASTE OF LIFE.. YOUR MOTHER SHOULD HAVE FLUSHED OR SWALLOWED YOU!!!!

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:26am
  9. You people need to get your facts straight. Seems people always want to twist the real issue. Get a fucking life self loathen queers.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:41am
  10. You people need to get your facts straight. Seems people always want to twist the real issue. Get a fucking life self loathen queers.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:41am
  11. Really? That's not what they said when they were caught. Aaron McKinney said Yeah I killed him because he was a queer and if I got out Id kill more queers because I hate queers. Why are you defending Aaron and Russell anyway? They're not the victims in this? Matthew is!

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:32pm
  12. WE ARE BORN TO BE TRUE NOT TO BE PERFECT GIRL,BOY,BAKLA,TOMBOY @BuzzFeedLGBT

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:05am
  13. Leave the poor kid alone, he died in an awful way. Don’t muck up his memory now, late in the story.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:09am
  14. you are so! right. leave the kid alone. isn't there enough hate in this world? damn.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:01pm
  15. It seems the positive things that happened because of his horrible death were too much for the haters, they want to kill him all over. Disgusting.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:05pm
  16. I was so sad for him – and sickened me. And @ Tammy I don’t think your version of “the truth” isn’t the truth.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:12am
  17. Anne Keith TalovichTalking I’m not picking on the kid one gut I chilled with grow up with the kid and was going to marry the kid sister my bff was in uw with him and when to school with him so I know the kid and I know the facts I’m not a crack whore are a drunk I have serious healyh problems which causes me to not be able to focus and I’m not a low life pos I know what happen and his family knew how big he was in to drugs I’m standing up for the fact EVERYONE didn’t care he was gay no one bullied him about he was very open and proud someyhing all you fight for and you don’t see that just cause the MEDIA painted fhis picture you ran with it when yhe facts are he was beat and kill like any drugy whom don’t pay there dealer he was treat like an equal in wy no body hate him for whom he was other then his drug problem

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:31am
  18. You're a liar and an illiterate cretin, but you already know that.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:38am
  19. And if you want to tangle with me, give it your best shot. Unlike Matthew, I'm alive and can defend myself against scum like you.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:47am
  20. How the hell do you know if Matthew was picked on or not? Have you read about Matthew? Do you have any idea what hell he went through before he was murdered? Matthew wasn't a saint. He was a human and humans make mistakes. But Matthew didn't approach Aaron and Russell. They approached him and followed him in the bathroom. They're the ones who offered him a ride home. They had the whole thing planned and they did exactly what they planned. It wasn't a drug deal gone bad. It was murder. Plan and simple. He was MURDERED for being GAY!

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:49pm
  21. Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:04am
  22. He will be remembered and missed. No one deserves the hateful attack he was killed by. So senseless…..

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:23am
  23. R.I.P Matthew 15yrs since you went to join the angels,sadly this world hasn’t learnt a lesson from your shocking death

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:27am
  24. Everyone needs to read over his story and then watch “Prayers For Bobby” see how they would feel then.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:06am
  25. Tammy, you’re an ignorant troll

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:08am
  26. <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:18am
  27. <3

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:18am
  28. When I think of Matthew Shepard I think of not just the LGBT persons who are violently hurt, abused, and (sadly) murdered, but the countless other teens and adults who are driven to take their life because they are treated “less than” by others in society. We lost a good amount of people up to this date because of a world that still calls the LGBT commuity “godless” or worse. I think of my friend Ken McQueen all the time and how he would have loved this world today if he gave himself the chance to see just how much the world has changed. Sadly…he is one of the persons who got the worst kind of message a human can get, took things in his own hands, and committed suicide. For him and the many more abused physically, mentally, and spiritually for being gay my heart breaks and wishes they were here with us.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:51am
  29. When I think of Matthew Shepard I think of not just the LGBT persons who are violently hurt, abused, and (sadly) murdered, but the countless other teens and adults who are driven to take their life because they are treated “less than” by others in society. We lost a good amount of people up to this date because of a world that still calls the LGBT commuity “godless” or worse. I think of my friend Ken McQueen all the time and how he would have loved this world today if he gave himself the chance to see just how much the world has changed. Sadly…he is one of the persons who got the worst kind of message a human can get, took things in his own hands, and committed suicide. For him and the many more abused physically, mentally, and spiritually for being gay my heart breaks and wishes they were here with us.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 10:51am
  30. Sad even in death the man cant get a break ….. let him rest and move on

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:06am
  31. Sad even in death the man cant get a break ….. let him rest and move on

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:06am
  32. Sad, he did not deserve to die like that. Might have been a drug deal gone bad.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:09am
  33. Sad, he did not deserve to die like that. Might have been a drug deal gone bad.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:09am
  34. Wow realy Tammy do you have nothing better to do then take shit about someone that isn’t here to defend themselves and if thr drug shit was true home come Russell Henderson you know one of the low lives that was involved said they did it because he was an easy target and because he was gay yea thats right one the murdering fucks admitted it McKinney and himself did what they did because Matthew was gay I will not use the wrds they did because they are disgusting wrds and if they did do it over a drug deal as you claim why in the fuck did McKinney himself say right in a interview he did it because Matthew was gay and he hates fags and if he was free he do it again and again and again McKinney and Henderson are little pussy ass bitches that couldn’t take on someone their own size and the point is that they Killed somone Matthee is no longer here because of them and you sound like you want people to feel more sorry for McKinney and Henderson then Matthew fuck that shit! Ill believe what his mother family friends and oh yea and what the doctors have to say if Matthew was such a druggy like you claim how come his blood wrk came out clean? I’ve know users in my time and ill tell u what that shit wouldve shown up so take ur bs over to the reverend philips page I’m sure hell hang on ur everywrd no one wants to hear ur homoophobic bs on here.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:12am
  35. She never bad mouthed him she judt said he died cause of a drug deal gone wrong and she not a homopho far from

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:31pm
  36. Yea and thats bs but you believe what you want side with her all you want I ain't getting into this with you I've got better things to do with my time then to argue over something I know is absolute bs and the fact that you all are talking about his drug use over the fact that he was murdered just shows were your mind set is you believe what you want ill believe what his family and friends have to say about him I don't realy care what neither one of you have to say. Now if you dont mind I'm gonna go remember Matt the way he should be remembered.

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:43pm
  37. Wow realy Tammy do you have nothing better to do then take shit about someone that isn’t here to defend themselves and if thr drug shit was true home come Russell Henderson you know one of the low lives that was involved said they did it because he was an easy target and because he was gay yea thats right one the murdering fucks admitted it McKinney and himself did what they did because Matthew was gay I will not use the wrds they did because they are disgusting wrds and if they did do it over a drug deal as you claim why in the fuck did McKinney himself say right in a interview he did it because Matthew was gay and he hates fags and if he was free he do it again and again and again McKinney and Henderson are little pussy ass bitches that couldn’t take on someone their own size and the point is that they Killed somone Matthee is no longer here because of them and you sound like you want people to feel more sorry for McKinney and Henderson then Matthew fuck that shit! Ill believe what his mother family friends and oh yea and what the doctors have to say if Matthew was such a druggy like you claim how come his blood wrk came out clean? I’ve know users in my time and ill tell u what that shit wouldve shown up so take ur bs over to the reverend philips page I’m sure hell hang on ur everywrd no one wants to hear ur homoophobic bs on here.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:12am
  38. Nicely done Aurora Rayn. Ps what is up with tammy’s spelling? Drugy or just illiterate? Unfortunately this horrible act DID save lives….it DID change people and make people think twice. Sometimes it takes the death of one to save many. My favorite part of the story is when his best friend made wings out of sheets and spread them out to block all the haters. It STILL brings tears to my eyes. Now that is actual a group that goes around and does that when stupid bigots protest funerals and shootings. Thank you Matthew for your sacrific.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:42am
  39. Nicely done Aurora Rayn. Ps what is up with tammy’s spelling? Drugy or just illiterate? Unfortunately this horrible act DID save lives….it DID change people and make people think twice. Sometimes it takes the death of one to save many. My favorite part of the story is when his best friend made wings out of sheets and spread them out to block all the haters. It STILL brings tears to my eyes. Now that is actual a group that goes around and does that when stupid bigots protest funerals and shootings. Thank you Matthew for your sacrific.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:42am
  40. poor kid he did not have an opportunity to grow up in a gay loving area like my town of seattle

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:04pm
  41. poor kid he did not have an opportunity to grow up in a gay loving area like my town of seattle

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:04pm
  42. RIP

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:08pm
  43. RIP

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:08pm
  44. i, too, knew matthew, tammy. i won’t deny his drug use–which is totally inconsequential. and i hate to burst your bubble, but why then did both of the guys involved say they beat matthew for making a ‘pass’ at them when he was quietly sitting at the bar? and have you forgotten what happened to him in cody at newton lake? the truth of the matter is matthew was a very kind and loving human being whose life was taken way too young by 2 assholes who couldn’t stand gays. let matthew, and all others who have lost their lives so senselessly be the reason to forget hate and love everyone as an individual…

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:16pm
  45. She never once said anything bad about just said it was a drug deal gone wrong you know its amusing how the world work not to long ago her husband wltk with a guy whom served jail with the guys whom did thid snd they gdt beat in jail for not attacking him for being gay standing up for gays she new said snything bad about him ever hell she d I'd sa y he was loved and treated like and equal and nevdr used hate at all she just annoyed at the media for turning evdnts and facts and changing it in to something else but ever bad mouth him

    Replied on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:27pm
  46. Thinks that instead of all this negativity lets look to change things in the future!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:29pm
  47. Matthew should still be here but because TWO HOMOPHOBES decided that killing Matthew would be fun. I hate to tell you this Tammy he was murdered because he was gay. It’s heartbreaking and still happens. These hate crimes need to stop and a hate crime was what happened. to Matthew . It wasn’t a drug deal gone wrong and it wasn’t a robbery gone wrong. He was murdered for being gay.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:38pm
  48. I think about him often.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 12:45pm
  49. Rest in piece Matthew you are sorly missed

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:03pm
  50. We’re still fighting for you, Matthew!!! RIP!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:52pm
  51. Sandy Rios is a complete bitch!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:54pm
  52. I was a grad student at UWYO when he was killed. One of my professors found him hanging on a fence dead. What a tragedy. The accused said they were drunk and shouldn’t go to prison because they have children to take care of!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 1:58pm
  53. RIP Mathew we are still fighting for equality

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:18pm
  54. not much has changed in his wonderful state!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:18pm
  55. He was an American Man…….killed by his own country…….and…and…and…of course, christianity, or, the philosophy of religion that is filled with ignorance and hate: CHRISTIANITY…………WELCOME TO AMERICA…

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:45pm
  56. No! Never forget Matthew!! Hope and Pray that we can stop it from happening again!

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:50pm
  57. The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, also known as the Matthew Shepard Act, is an American Act of Congress, passed on October 22, 2009, and signed into law by President Barack Obama on October 28, 2009, as a rider to the National Defense Authorization Act for 2010 (H.R. 2647). Conceived as a response to the murders of Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., the measure expands the 1969 United States federal hate-crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 2:58pm
  58. Even if he did drugs so what it doesn’t mean they killed him just for that they could have killed him for both reasons, and know of you were there so you don’t know,but I’ll believe the killers they said when they killed him they hated homosexuals and he needed to die. And I don’t care if it was a drug deal we needed this law No one deserves to die for being gay.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:24pm
  59. 15 years later, we’ve come a long way, but still have a long way to go.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:26pm
  60. His family is in my thoughts and prayers. He is missed dearly, it just makes me sad that such a beautiful soul was taken from us at such a young age, and then people still to this day drag his name thru the dirty saying how it was a drug and robbery gone wrong. I don’t think so, Matthew you are missed and loved. Will be keeping his family and friends in my thoughts and prayers as this day goes on. And anyone who is out there who wants to come out you have my support and I wish everyone good luck.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:27pm
  61. Let him rest in peace.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:32pm
  62. AMNEN!!! Well said Aurora, he needs to be remembered for the things he did in his life not for the supposedly bs that people are saying.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 3:50pm
  63. Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 4:27pm
  64. we can not let the horrors of the past be forgotten if we hope to change the future. Matthew Shepard will never be forgotten, may he rest in peace.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 5:19pm
  65. agreed … what ever happened to “rest in peace”?

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 5:20pm
  66. Wouldnt want to miss the party.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 5:56pm
  67. rest in the arms of angels

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 7:51pm
  68. Sad to see recent stories that are adding to the pain his family and friends already suffer.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 8:20pm
  69. Beautiful soul.

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 9:30pm
  70. one could only hope this never happens again, lots of haters out there

    Posted on Saturday, October 12, 2013 at 11:51pm
  71. Matthew, I will never forget. May you rest in peace.

    Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 12:01am
  72. We are fighting for you baby!!!!

    Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 1:59am
  73. oh my god just stop being dicks about this whole thing like really how fucking hard it is to not put effort into being fucking evil

    Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 7:29am
  74. oh my god just stop being dicks about this whole thing like really how fucking hard it is to not put effort into being fucking evil

    Posted on Sunday, October 13, 2013 at 7:29am
  75. People forget that Mathew Shepard was one of THOUSANDS of gay men and transgenders who get killed every year. Nearly 1/2 of all male teen suicides involve men who are GBT. I often wonder if this was true of Rick Warren’s son. Police now investigate suicides to see if there were signs of bullying, cyber-crime, or harassment – and have discovered that the incidence is extremely high. As I said, roughly 1/2 of all male teens suicides. In addition, there is a high percentage of those who die from drug overdoses, “Accidents”, and “suicide by ___” (fill in the blank with cops, jocks, rednecks, bikers…)

    Posted on Monday, October 14, 2013 at 7:44pm