A newly-commissioned portrait of Matthew Shepard, a gay college student who was murdered in 1998 in an anti-gay hate crime, is on display at Washington National Cathedral, where he is interred. The portrait, by artist Kelly Latimore, was commissioned by LGBTQ members of the cathedral staff and is the only artistic image of Shepard composed in collaboration with his family, according to a cathedral news release.
Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy, attended the portrait’s dedication at St. Joseph’s Chapel on Dec. 1, part of a day-long series of events that celebrated Shepard’s life on what would have been his 46th birthday. The events were co-sponsored with the Matthew Shepard Foundation.
“The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard’s legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations, said cathedral Dean Randolph Marshall Hollerith. “We hope the cathedral continues to be a sacred space that offers support and strength for all who visit.”
The cathedral hosted an online service of Morning Prayer to commemorate Shepard’s life, led by Bishop V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church. The online service is available for viewing on the Cathedral’s YouTube page.
Later that day, the portrait was dedicated in a service in the cathedral’s crypt, titled “Remember, Reflect, Resolve,” near the site where Shepard’s ashes were interred in 2018, 20 years after his death.
Matthew Wayne Shepard (1976-1998) was a gay student at the University of Wyoming when he was attacked and tied to a fence in a field outside of Laramie, Wyo., and left to die. Five days later, he succumbed to his injuries at the age of 21. In 2009, the Matthew Shepard Foundation was instrumental in the passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, the first federal hate crime statue to expand the protected classes to include a victim’s sexual orientation, gender identity or disability. His final resting place is marked with a plaque in St. Joseph’s Chapel, dedicated in December 2019.
Shepard, an Episcopalian, had often served as an acolyte at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Casper, Wyo., where his funeral would eventually be held. While attending the University of Wyoming, he was involved with the school’s Canterbury Club and a student LGBTQ+ group, according to an Episcopal News Service story.
A longtime supporter of the full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the life of the church, the Cathedral considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century. The Cathedral hosted its first same-sex wedding in 2010 and welcomed its first transgender preacher to the Canterbury Pulpit in 2014.
The Episcopal News Service story covering the dedication is here.