Just past midnight on October 7, 1998, one of the most horrific anti-gay hate crimes in American history took place in Laramie, Wyoming. Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old college student, was abducted by two men, tied to a fence, beaten with the butt of a pistol and left to die. A bicyclist found his body 18 hours later and on October 12 at 12:53 a.m. Shepard died in a hospital with his family beside him.
Shepard’s murder sparked national attention and outrage regarding LGBT hate and bigotry. His parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, founded The Matthew Shepard Foundation shortly after their son’s death to commemorate and honor Shepard and to “replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance,” a vision in line with their son’s dreams, beliefs and passions. In 2009, 11 years after Shepard’s passing, President Obama signed into law The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr., Hate Crimes Prevention Act, a federal hate crime law that prohibits assaults on people based on their sexual orientation, gender and gender identity.