Matthew Shepard's Parents Cast Delegate Votes for Joe Biden at DNC

"We see in Joe so much of what made Matt's life special," Dennis Shepard said

Matthew Shepard’s parents represent Wyoming during the Democratic National Conventions virtual roll call
From left: Judy and Dennis Shepard. Photo: Now This News/Twitter

The parents of the late Matthew Shepard — the 21-year-old gay college student whose 1998 killing made him a symbol of violence against LGBTQ people — cast Wyoming’s delegate votes during the Tuesday night installment of the virtual Democratic National Convention.

Judy and Dennis Shepard appeared briefly during the DNC's roll call, which formally made former Vice President Joe Biden the Democratic nominee in the Nov. 3 election against President Donald Trump.

"After our son’s death in Wyoming, Joe Biden helped pass the legislation to protect LGBTQ Americans from hate crimes,” Dennis said.

“Joe understands more than most our grief over Matt’s death,” he added. “We see in Joe so much of what made Matt's life special — his commitment to equality, his passion for social justice and his boundless compassion for others."

Following Dennis’ words, his wife, Judy, formally cast Wyoming’s delegate votes for Biden.

Matthew died in a Colorado hospital on Oct. 12, 1998, five days after he was beaten and left tied to a fence in the cold outside Laramie, Wyoming.

His convicted killers, Russell Henderson and Aaron McKinney, are both serving two consecutive life terms.

Matthew's death made him a national symbol for the gay rights movement and, in 2009, President Barack Obama signed a federal hate crimes prevention act bearing Matthew's name that extended existing hate-crimes laws to include gender and sexual orientation.

Matt Checkered Shirt - Most Famous Photo of Matt (1)Matthew Shepard
Matthew Shepard. Courtesy of Matthew Shepard Foundation

Dennis and Judy also formed the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which runs education, outreach and advocacy programs. Among other resources, the foundation’s web site includes information about local productions of The Laramie Project, a play based on interviews with “real people who lived at the epicenter of one of the nation’s most heinous anti-gay hate crimes,” according to the foundation.

In a 2013 interview with PEOPLE, Judy reflected on the Supreme Court decision overturning the federal anti-same-sex-marriage Defense of Marriage Act.

“Oh my god. It was joyful. It was tearful,” she said of first hearing that the law was ruled unconstitutional.

“I wish he’d been here to see it,” she added then. “This case warms my heart, to think that his dream is still coming true.”

From left: Judy and Dennis Shepard. Laramie Daily Boomerang/Andy Carpenean/AP

Judy also recalled a conversation she and her son had just a couple of months before his October 1998 murder in which he contemplated whether she thought gay couples would ever be allowed to get married.

“He wasn’t at all optimistic it would happen,” she said.

“He was in a mindset of, ‘People are never going to accept us or understand us.’ It was a much different world then,” she told people at the time. “There was activism happening, yes. And we were moving on from the AIDS pandemic. But ignorance and the fear out there was its own pandemic. For Matthew, it was a very secret world still.”

“I told him I didn’t think I would see it in my lifetime, but he probably would in his,” Judy said. “It’s so sad — and ironic — that it turned out the other way.”

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