Matthew Shepard


The BBC called it “The murder that changed America.” On October 6, 1998, in the small town of Laramie, Wyoming, 21-year-old openly gay college student Matthew Shepard was abducted, brutally beaten, and left for dead. He died of his injuries on October 12. 

His murderers tried to use the “gay panic” defense, but later retracted that, saying that Matthew hadn’t actually made any advances on either of them, as previously claimed. They are both serving consecutive life sentences. 

Following Matthew’s murder, his mother Judy became an advocate, founding and running the Matthew Shepard Foundation, where she and other work with the goal to eliminate hate crimes by providing education, training, and other resources. The foundation’s website states they have “provided our unique Hate Crimes Prevention Training to over 1,400 law enforcement officers and prosecutors in 45 cities since May 2017.” They also led the effort to add sexual orientation and gender identity to the qualifications for a hate crime. 

Matthew’s ashes are interred in the Washington National Cathedral. 

See also: LGBTQIA+ History