The United States has come a long way since Matthew Shepard was hanged nearly 15 years ago for being gay, and his mom wishes he were here to see it. The Supreme Court deemed Defense of Marriage Act (or DOMA) was unconstitutional on Wednesday, which prompted his mother, Judy, to open up to People about a conversation she had with her son a few months before he was murdered in October 1998.
"There had been a [news] story about same-sex marriage and he was debating it with me," Shepard told the magazine. "He asked me if I thought gay couples would ever be allowed to get married and he wasn't at all optimistic it would happen. He was in a mindset of, 'People are never going to accept us or understand us.' It was a much different world then. 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," she told People. "It's so sad – and ironic – that it turned out the other way."
After the SCOTUS decision on Wednesday, the federal government must recognize same-sex marriage in the 12 states that already allow it; something that at the time of Matthew’s death, practically no one in the US could have thought it possible.
His 1998 death was one of the most gruesome hate crimes the nation had seen. When Matthew was just 21 years old two men tied tied him to a fence in Laramie, Wyo., where they beat him and then left him for dead.
Since her son’s tragic death, Shepard and her husband Dennis founded the Matthew Shepard Foundation, which helps fight hate crimes against the LGBTQ community. Their motto: “Replace Hate with Understanding, Compassion, & Acceptance."
Shepard took to Twitter to share her joy: “A day to take your breath away. A day to celebrate love and equality. Group hug”
A day to take your breath away. A day to celebrate love and equality. Group hug
— Judy Shepard (@WyoJudyShepard) June 26, 2013