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20 years after his death, Matthew Shepard's legacy lives on

Twenty years ago this past weekend, a 21-year-old college student from the University of Wyoming was beaten and killed because of his sexual orientation. Matthew Shepard's death sparked a movement against hate crimes, and toward equality.

Sunday night at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins, a Grammy-award winning choir performed a piece that brought people to tears.

It’s been 20 years since two men left Matthew Shepard for dead, tied to a fence in Laramie, Wyoming

and the grief is still felt as the audience is reminded of the senseless tragedy through the passages of the album, "Considering Matthew Shepard."

It’s pieces like this, and the play the Laramie Project, that the executive director of the Matthew

Shepard Foundation, Jason Marsden, says will carry on his friend’s legacy.

“And this is possibly the only way that young people and people in the future, 40, 50 years from now will

still have a vivid and emotionally resonant experience of this story that will help them understand why it

motivated us so much in our time and give them an extra spur to be a part of that in the future,” said

Marsden.

He was 26 when his friend, Matt, was killed. They were a part of the small gay community in Casper,

Wyoming.

“Matthew Shepard’s death was really the first time that the media and the general public really took a

look at the phenomenon of anti-LGBT hate crimes,” said Marsden.

In the two decades since Shepard’s death, anti-hate crime laws have been passed in his name, and same-sex marriage became legal.

“Every once and a while something happens that touches millions of people,” said Marsden. “And it

draws them in with the power of the story, and unlocks what they might care about, the potential that

they might be able to offer the world.”

The power of Matthew’s story is still unlocking that potential today. Marsden can see it in the people

watching the music on Sunday night.

“It touches me to see that others were affected in the same way I was,” he said. “And that my grief was

no different from anyone else’s. And that someone else’s grief might produce this incredible artistic

legacy that has the power to shape human behavior.”