(December 1, 1976 – October 12, 1998)
Mathew Shepard died on October 12th, 1998 at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado – six days after a homophobic attack that took place on October 6th, 1998 – and left to die at Laramie, with heavy brain injuries in Wyoming, U.S.A. His injuries were so severe that the gentleman who discovered Sheppard mistook him for a Scarecrow at first glance.
No one should ever suffer at the hands of another human being in such a horrific way, despite anyone’s own personal beliefs. His tragic murder serves to remind us of the importance of tolerance, acceptance and equality for everyone.
The event shook America and the world.
Fred Phelps showing his hatred towards the LGBTcommunity at Mathew’s funeral.
Sadly, some Christian groups thought it was appropriate to protest at the funeral of Shepard. Why some groups think that this is normal behaviour for Christians is beyond most people. All these protests did was show the world the importance of fighting against anti LGBT sentiment.
His murder brought international coverage and led to hate crime laws in many countries. On October 28th, 2009, President Obama signed legislation into U.S law. The act is called, Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (commonly known as the “Matthew Shepard Act” or “Shepard/Byrd Act” for short).
In 2010, a similar law was granted by the UK parliament which now protects many minorities – although campaigns are still running to include the addition of hate crimes against women.
Mathew Shepard’s parents have long campaigned for LGBT rights in order to honour their son’s life and aspirations. They set up the foundation to teach parents whose children who may be questioning their sexuality, to love and accept them for who they are. Something we all need to aspire to.
Imagine the bravery of his parents to continue fighting for the rights of others after losing their son!