WASHINGTON, DC (WUS9) — WASHINGTON -- It took two decades, but Matthew Shepard finally has a resting place.
“It is important that we now have a home for Matt,” said his father Dennis Shepard at Friday’s internment ceremony at the Washington National Cathedral. “A place where everyone can come visit and it’s safe from the haters.”
The openly gay University of Wyoming students was tortured and killed in 1998. He was just 21 years old. His parents held on to his ashes all these years because they did not want them to be disturbed or disrespected in a public place.
“To have a person like Matthew interred here at the Washington Cathedral means a lot to our community,” said Erin Uritus CEO of Out and Equal Workplace Advocates.
Uritus has known the Shepard family for 20 years and became an active advocate for LGBTQ rights months after Matthew’s murder.
“Many of you have been hurt by your own religious communities and I want to welcome you back,” said Bishop Gene Robinson.
The openly gay Episcopal Bishop’s welcome was also an acknowledgment and a plea for forgiveness.
For Sister Allie Lewya who grew up in a Southern Baptist church, it was everything.
“I knew I wasn't’ like the other boys. That something was different and then growing up in the church you’re told ‘God loves everyone, God loves you, you’re special to God - but God hates gay people.”
Allie Lewya is a member of the DC Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an advocacy group with a mission to promote joy, human rights and diversity.
“For this to happen now for Matthew it brings some peace and comfort to my heart,” said Allie Lewya.
“If you are here just to pay your respects and remember Matthew it’s not enough,” said Bishop Robinson, “if you’re not here to be transformed you’ve come for the wrong reason.”
It was a call to action that Uritis and the DC Sisters, drag queens with their makeup and lashes, take seriously.
“This current administration is proof enough that our fight is not over,” said Allie Lewya. “This is a reminder that we should never forget and make sure this never happens again so get out and vote make your voice heard.”