25 years after Matthew Shepard’s death, LGBTQ+ activists say equal-rights progress is at risk

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10/12/2023

It’s been 25 years since Matthew Shepard, a gay 21-year-old University of Wyoming student, died six days after he was savagely beaten by two young men and tied to a remote fence to meet his fate. His death has been memorialized as an egregious hate crime that helped fuel the LGBTQ+ rights movement over the ensuing years. From the perspective of the movement’s activists — some of them on the front lines since the 1960s — progress was often agonizingly slow, but it was steady. Vermont allowed same-sex civil unions in 2000. A Texas law criminalizing consensual gay sex was struck down in 2003. In 2011, the military scrapped the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy that kept gay, lesbian and bisexual service members in the closet. And in 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that same-sex marriages were legal nationwide.

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