D065 Adding Matthew Shepard to the Sanctoral Calendar

Matthew Wayne Shepard (1 December 1976 – 12 October 1998) was born in Casper (Diocese of Wyoming), and baptized at St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, where he also served as an acolyte and altar server. While a political science major at the University of Wyoming (Laramie), he was affiliated with St. Matthew’s Cathedral. On 6 October, 1998, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson met up with him at the Fireside Inn bar, where they abducted him, drove him to the countryside near Laramie, tied him to a split-rail fence, pistol-whipped him until he was unconscious, and drove away, leaving him comatose and exposed to the elements for eighteen hours. A cyclist discovered him the next day, at first mistaking him for a scarecrow. He was airlifted to Colorado, where he died on 12 October without ever regaining consciousness. His funeral at St. Mark’s in Casper attracted 700 mourners, but was picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church of Topeka, Kansas (now an SPLC-listed hate group). Henderson and McKinney were later convicted of kidnapping and murder, even though their attorneys attempted the “gay panic” defense--that men, if improperly propositioned by another man, would be justified in lashing out with any means necessary, similar to the “Twinkie Defense” used by the attorney for Dan White in his trial for murdering San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk and San Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Matthew Shepard’s murder was one of the first anti-gay hate crimes to receive truly international attention, and his name was given to the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Act, signed into law by President Obama in 2018, twenty years after his murder. On 26 October, 2018, his ashes were interred in the columbarium at the National Cathedral of Ss. Peter and Paul (Diocese of Washington, D.C.). We feel that it is just and fitting that our Episcopalian brother in Christ, Matthew Shepard, be added to our Sanctoral Calendar as we wrestle with the past and ongoing spiritual trauma inflicted on members of the LGBTQIA+ community.