Murdered gay student to be interred in Washington 20 years on

Kosovo citizens dance under a giant rainbow flag during the Gay Pride parade in Pristina. (AFP pic)

WASHINGTON: The remains of a gay US college student whose murder became a symbol of homophobic violence will be interred at Washington National Cathedral 20 years after his death, the church has confirmed.

Matthew Shepard was kidnapped, robbed and beaten in 1998, then left to die strapped to a ranch fence in Laramie, Wyoming.

The 21-year-old hung on the fence for 18 hours until two passing cyclists found him. His death five days later in a Colorado hospital triggered a national outcry.

Scores of mourners attended his funeral but it was picketed by homophobic protesters. As a result, his parents did not choose a final resting place for his ashes, concerned it would be desecrated, according to US media reports.

But on October 26, Shepard will be interred at the Episcopal Church’s Washington National Cathedral in a private ceremony following a public remembrance service.

“Join the cathedral as we host a service of thanksgiving and remembrance for Matthew Shepard, whose brutal death in 1998 shocked the world, grieved the church and mobilised the LGBTQ movement,” the cathedral, a neo-gothic icon of Washington’s skyline, said on its website.

In 2009, the US congress approved legislation named after Shepard bolstering prosecution of “hate crimes” committed because of race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, mental or physical disability.