Matthew Shepard’s university to dedicate memorial bench

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The University of Wyoming will mark the tenth anniversary of the murder of gay student Matthew Shepard later this month.

A Memorial Bench honouring him will be formally dedicated at Saturday 27th September at the east entrance of the UW College of Arts and Sciences Building.

The Matthew Shepard Foundation presented the bench to the university.

The foundation was created by Dennis and Judy Shepard in memory of their 21-year old son, who was murdered in an anti-gay hate crime in Wyoming in October 1998.

Matthew beaten and left to die, tied to a fence, in freezing conditions.

Aaron James McKinney and Russell Arthur Henderson are both serving life in prison for his murder.

UW President Tom Buchanan and Judy Shepard, Executive Director of the Foundation, will both speak at the ceremony.

Matthew’s murder brought the issue of hate crimes against LGBT people to greater public attention in America.

Then-President Bill Clinton tried to extend federal hate crime legislation to include gay and lesbian people in the aftermath of his death, but ultimately was defeated by Congress.

In May the US House of Representatives passed the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act with a strong bipartisan vote of 237-180.

The Senate approved the nearly-identical Matthew Shepard Act as an amendment to the Department of Defence Authorisation bill on a voice vote.

President Bush had indicated he would use his veto to block any attempt to extend federal hate crimes laws to LGBT people.

The hate crimes provisions had been attached to a defence spending bill, but was dropped by the Senate because it could not attract enough support.

The Democratic candidate for President in the US elections in November, Barack Obama, has promised to “place the weight of my administration behind the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act.”