|"Be not overcome with
evil, for evil will be overcome with good."
"He was a really nice kid. He was always willing to help. You never needed to tell Matt what to do."
The Rev. R. W. Brown
"A person as caring and loving as our son Matt would be overwhelmed by what this incident has done to the hearts and souls of people around the world. Matthew was the type of person, that if this had happened to another person, would have been the first on the scene to offer his help, his hope and his heart to the family."
"Give your kids a hug and don't let a day go by without telling them you love them."
"Matt was a young man who met the world with eager expectation, who offered trust and friendship easily, and lived honestly.. who trusted in the goodness of God's world, who revelled in God's creation and allowed people into his heart."
"Matt is loved by God. It is love that has radiated out of the midst of this tragedy, love which empowers his parents to speak compassion rather than condemnation, love which inspired his friends to acts of prayer and witness, love which is more powerful than any voice of hate."
"He was not always a winner according to the world's standards. He struggled to fit into a world not always kind to gentle spirits. What was important to Matt was to care, to help to nurture, to bring joy to others in his quiet, gentle way."
Rev. Anne Kitch
"An Angel with new wings, in a place a world away, can once again begin to sing, God took him in his arms today."
"He blessed his soul with loving care and took away his pain, his life story all would share, his memory on their hearts a stain."
"So young a heart destroyed, for a cause unforgotten, another's mind deployed, the result a tragedy rotten."
"The tragic hero that's hard to find, a martyr with great courage, God's lamb in rare design, never to be discouraged."
"Our love for him forever strong, his image will never fade, we'll meet him again before long, temporary goodbyes we now must bade."
"Matty, I love you with all of my heart. I wish you only you how much. You'll be happier with this brand new start, the World's heart you have touched"
"The opportunity to be threatened, humiliated and to live in fear of being beaten to death is the only "special right" our culture bestows on homosexuals."
Diane Carman - Denver Post Columnist.
"Probably one of the most gentle people I've ever met in my life. He was intelligent, he loved to sit and talk about politics. He was very open to people. He was just like any person's son."
"We must use Matt's example in life to work against hatred, bigotry and violence."
Philip Dubois - University President
Funeral for gay hate-crime victim brutally murdered.
Friday October 16, 1998
The funeral has taken place in the United States of Matthew Shepard, a 21 year-old student, who was savagely beaten to death because he was gay. Friends and family gathered in pouring rain at the church in the town of Casper, Wyoming, where he was baptised.
Matthew had been lured from a campus bar shortly after midnight on October 7 by two men who told him they were gay. He was driven to a remote area near the Sherman Hills neighbourhood east of Laramie, tied to a split-rail fence, tortured, beaten and pistol-whipped by his attackers, while he begged for his life; he was then left for dead in near freezing temperatures. A cyclist who found him on Snowy Mountain View Road at 6:22 pm, some 18 hours after the attack, at first mistook him for a scarecrow. He was unconscious and suffering from hypothermia. His face was caked with blood, except where it had been partially washed clean by tears.
Matthew died at 12:53 am on Monday 12th October 1998, at Poudre Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado, with his family at his bedside. Hospital officials said Matthew had a fracture from behind his head to just in front of his right ear and a massive brain stem injury which affected his vital signs, including his heart beat, body temperature and other involuntary functions. There were also approximately a dozen small lacerations around his head, face and neck. He was so badly injured in the attack that doctors were unable to operate. He never regained consciousness after being found, and remained on full life support.
While Matthew lay dying in hospital, just a few miles away, a group of students from Colorado State University thought it would be funny to ride atop a homecoming float that featured a scarecrow figure designed to resemble Matthew's battered body. The figure was wearing a sign that said "I'm gay." An obscene message was painted across the back of the scarecrow's shirt. The students didn't mean to be insensitive. It was supposed to be a joke. They were just ordinary, average guys, having a bit of fun.
Matthew was born Dec. 1, 1976, in Casper, and was the oldest son of Judy Peck Shepard and Dennis Shepard. While living in Casper, he attended Crest Hill Grade School, Dean Morgan Junior High, and completed his sophomore year in Natrona County High School. He was a member and an acolyte in St. Mark's Episcopal Church.
He attended the last two years of high school at the American School in Switzerland, where he graduated in 1995. After graduation from high school, he attended Catawba College in Salisbury, N.C.,and Casper College. He then moved to Denver, where he had several jobs. He was a first- year political science major at the University of Wyoming in Laramie at the time of his death.
He enjoyed the theatre and had parts in several Casper College and Stage III Theater plays. He liked soccer, swimming, running, camping, hunting, fishing and snow skiing; as well as dancing and theatre.
Matthew was gentle of demeanour and passionate about human rights and foreign relations. Friends described him as a small man - 5-foot-2, 110 pounds - with a big heart. "He would do anything for anybody".
Matthew was killed to make a point. His fragile, broken body was left strung up like an animal as a clear message to gay men everywhere. How can someone be so consumed with hatred for a fellow human being that atrocities like this happen? Why is homosexuality even an issue? Why does it excite such feelings of hatred and violence in people, when their lives will never be touched by it? Why is a person's sexuality anyone else's business; and who are we to judge other people?
Part of the answer, at least, lies in a culture that ridicules gay men, and dehumanises them, so that their lives are seen to have less value. It starts with verbal taunts in the school playground, and leads to the persecution of people because of their sexual orientation. There is a climate of hatred in society which encourages murderers to act. This was a hate crime, and Matthew was brutally attacked, and left there to bleed his life away, simply because of who he was.
But Society's antipathy towards gay men does not lead everyone to commit violent acts against them. What is it about the mostly young male perpetrators of anti-gay hate crimes which causes them to react with such irrational violence? Do they feel threatened? If a straight man is secure in his sexual identity, and is secure in his masculinity, how can he feel threatened? There is no reason why straight men should have a problem with homosexuality.
Gay-bashers are psychologically disturbed individuals, who may even be closet cases themselves. They may have deep feelings of insecurity about their own sexuality. They may be wrestling with homosexual impulses of their own, and instead of being able to accept those feelings, they project their own self-loathing onto a gay victim. The deep hatred is clear from the way in which Matthew was killed. Did his tormentors, somehow, feel superior because they were able to do this to him?
One of the ways of combating bigotry and prejudice is to start in our schools. Just as people can be taught hatred and intolerance, so, too, can they be taught respect for those who may be different from themselves; and to value people equally, regardless of gender, colour, disability, sexual orientation, religious preference, national origin, ancestry, or age.
Critics will try to claim that this amounts to promoting homosexuality. You cannot teach someone to be homosexual - it is not a conscious choice made by an individual - but you can teach tolerance and understanding.
Some parents may say, "Well, so what? This issue doesn't affect me. My son isn't gay". The fact is, that while there remains some sympathy in society with those who carry out these violent assaults, your son does not have to be gay in order to be beaten up or murdered. It is enough for someone to think that he might be.
While the law continues to discriminate against gay and lesbian people, it will be seen to justify and legitimise the prejudices of the few. If the law discriminates, why shouldn't they? Gay people have the right to equal treatment under the law, and to live their lives free from fear, discrimination and prejudice. There should be an equal age of consent for gay men, and an end to other forms of discrimination, for example, in the workplace, and in housing.
I have found myself deeply moved by this senseless tragedy. Let our thoughts be with Matthew, and with his family, and let us commit ourselves, in our daily lives, to ending the hatred. Tears will be shed in Heaven, not only for Matthew, but for those who preach hatred and intolerance, and who incite people to violence in the name of God.
As the world tries to make sense out of Matthew Shepard's death, perhaps his most important act was his life. He had the courage to be true to himself, and for that he paid a terrible price.
The tragic story of this gentle soul has touched the hearts of people across America, and throughout the World. Matthew could have been your son. If you don't teach your kids to show tolerance and understanding towards others, then you've failed as a parent.
'Man of the Year' poll 1998
Matthew Shepard should be Time's "Man of the Year" not merely because he was murdered in an act of hate, but because his murder shocked this nation and gave us pause. That doesn't happen much any more. We are so jaded. Matthew's murder brings together so many issues that are raging in this country and wrenches them back into the national debate: homosexuality, hate, religious values, fundamentalism, conservatism, discrimination, civil rights, politics, and the judicial system. For a moment, we considered our friends, family, and ourselves and how fragile life really is. It opened up so many questions and supplied no answers. In that young fresh human soul and the gruesome description of a scarecrow-like body left for dead in the cold night with tears streaming across a face bloodied and beaten is a sad story. A story of the failings of the human race and of our world and society.
A message taken from the TIME magazine on-line bulletin board (Dec 12).
Matthew's parents now have a direct email address. It is firstname.lastname@example.org. The family have established the Matthew Shepard Foundation, with the aim of helping people to abandon ignorance, prejudice and hate.
Matthew's mom, Mrs Judy Shepard, will be taking over the website http://www.matthewsplace.com/ and will be working on it as her time permits.
Matthew's parents issued a statement read by Mr Rulon Stacey, CEO of Poudre Valley Hospital, after travelling from their home in Saudi Arabia to be at his bedside (Oct 10).
Funeral and vigil pictures, and a small demonstration by 'religious' fanatics (Oct 16).
Remembering Matthew Shepard - interview with Matthew's parents (Dateline NBC - Feb 99).
The Crucifixion of Matthew Shepard - Vanity Fair (Mar 99).
Trial set for accessory suspect (21 Sep).
Death spurs town to teach tolerance (7 Oct).
Judge criticizes "gay panic" defence (Oct 27).