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20 years after death, Matthew Shepard's ashes interred at National Cathedral

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Bishop Gene Robinson prepares to carry the ashes of Matthew Shepard at his memorial service at the Washington National Cathedral on Friday. Photo by Leigh Vogel/UPI

By Nicholas Sakelaris, UPI

Twenty years after college student Matthew Shepard was killed in a hate crime, hundreds of supporters gathered in Washington, D.C., Friday for his interment at the National Cathedral.

Bells chimed and a flute played during a special internment ceremony and memorial service. It was structured like a Episcopal funeral with bishops' sermons, choirs and scripture readings. The Gothic cathedral is the second largest in the country and has hosted presidential funerals.

Shepard was a 21-year-old college student at the University of Wyoming when he died on Oct. 12, 1998. He was beaten and left for dead by two men, tied to a fence for 18 hours in near freezing conditions. Shepard ultimately became a symbol for the LGBT movement and his death spurred hate crime legislation.

Mother Judy Shepard said it's a chance to put her son's ashes somewhere "safe" and complete closure. Family members and gay advocates are hopeful the crypt will become a symbol for LGBT rights.

Shepard's parents started the Matthew Shepard Foundation and advocated for passage of the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hates Crimes Prevention Act.

Gay rights is still a divisive issue in the country. President Donald Trump has said his administration is "seriously" considering changing its gender law, which is seen by critics as a potential crackdown on transgender rights.

Judy Shepard said she thought her advocacy fight was over -- but, since Trump's election, she's seen the movement "at ground zero again."

Also, the Shepards are donating their son's papers, photographs and notebooks to the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. The personal belongings stem from Shepard's elementary school days, his local theater productions and international travels.

"Twenty years is a long time in human years but only a blink in history. Yet it seems like only a moment ago that the country was shocked by the brutal killing of Matt Shepard," museum curator Katherine Ott said in a statement. "The materials donated by his parents, Judy and Dennis, will allow a deeper understanding not only of that time and how people responded and grieved but also the historical vulnerability of LGBTQ people."

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U.S. - U.S. Daily News: 20 years after death, Matthew Shepard's ashes interred at National Cathedral
20 years after death, Matthew Shepard's ashes interred at National Cathedral
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U.S. - U.S. Daily News
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