Matthew Shepard Laid To Rest At Washington National Cathedral Twenty years ago, the brutal killing of a young gay man in Laramie, Wyo., drew national attention and led to an expansion of a federal hate-crimes law.
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'You Are Safe Now': Matthew Shepard Laid To Rest At National Cathedral

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'You Are Safe Now': Matthew Shepard Laid To Rest At National Cathedral


There was an emotional service today at Washington's National Cathedral. The ashes of Matthew Shepard, the young gay man brutally murdered in Wyoming 20 years ago this month, were laid to rest in the cathedral's crypt. Shepard's killing has come to be seen as a classic crime of hate and anti-gay bigotry. His interment today was an occasion of solace, hope and resistance. Here's NPR's Tom Gjelten.


TOM GJELTEN, BYLINE: The National Cathedral has hosted state funerals for three U.S. presidents. But LGBT people have not always felt welcome in official Washington - nor in many Christian churches. The Episcopal Church, of which the cathedral is a part, is an exception.

GENE ROBINSON: We welcome those of you who are gay or lesbian, bisexual or transgender or queer.

GJELTEN: One of the presiders at Matt Shepard's internment service was the Reverend Gene Robinson, the first openly gay Episcopal bishop.

ROBINSON: Many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities. And I want to welcome you back.

GJELTEN: The cathedral, which seats 4,000 people, was filled to capacity. Matt Shepard's father Dennis spoke for his family.

DENNIS SHEPARD: It's so important that we now have a home for Matt - a home that others can visit, a home that is safe from haters.

GJELTEN: Reverend Anne Kitch of Bethlehem, Pa., is Matt Shepard's cousin. She read from Paul's Letter to the Romans where he says neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come...

ANNE KITCH: Nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, our Lord.


GJELTEN: The music was majestic. But the service had a political edge, reflecting how contentious LGBT rights are in this country. Bishop Robinson told the worshippers they need to unite against those forces out to erase transgender people.

ROBINSON: So I want you to remember - and then Dennis would want me to say and then go vote.

GJELTEN: Tearing up at the end of his homily, Robinson had three things to say to Matt.

ROBINSON: Gently rest in this place. You are safe now. Oh, yeah, and, Matt, welcome home. Amen.

GJELTEN: The service was open to the public and attracted many who felt some connection to Matt Shepard or the suffering now associated with him.

ALI LOPEZ: My name is Ali Lopez. I'm a member of the Centaur MC, which is a leather club here in DC.

GJELTEN: A former altar boy, originally from Puerto Rico.

LOPEZ: I am happy that the religious community is actually coming around to finding us a part of the community of God because many of us feel ostracized by the church.

GJELTEN: Nancy White was there with her husband Joe.

NANCY WHITE: We have a gay son. He's 30. So he was lucky to be of that age when it's more embracing of differences. But now we're afraid that things are going back. And this was one of the most moving services I have ever been to in my life.

GJELTEN: So it was also for Alan Crumpler, 77 years old, who drove up from Richmond, Va.

ALAN CRUMPLER: I was around when all this happened. And I'm not going to be here a whole lot longer. So I'm glad to see there was so many young people here.

GJELTEN: Following the service, the actual internment of Matt Shepard's ashes in the cathedral crypt was done privately with only his family and close friends present. Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.


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