The Washington National Cathedral unveiled last week a newly commissioned portrait of Matthew Shepard by artist Kelly Latimore.
The painting was commissioned by the LGBTQ+ members of the Cathedral staff artist, according to a news release.
In 1998, Shepard, a gay college student at the University of Wyoming, was murdered in an antigay hate crime. The cathedral said the work is the only artistic image of Shepard composed in cooperation with his family.
The background of the image was created by letters from supportive parents that Shepard's parents, Judy and Dennis, received after his murder.
"We used different clippings to create an almost mosaic of those letters and kind of precious and meaningful words to surround Matthew and the portrait of him," Latimore said, according to the Hill.
Shepard's parents also provided Latimore with photos of their son.
"We especially wanted the likeness of Matt to be right. We wanted people to look at it and know that it was Matt," Shepard's mother, who has become a leading LGBTQ+ rights activist, said. "There was nothing held back, we were an open book basically, so we just wanted it to be right."
Dennis said the portrait was "overwhelming" adding that it showed "the essence of Matt."
"The horrific murders at Club Q in Colorado Springs are a tragic reminder that our LGBTQ friends and family continue to be targeted for who they love, and Matthew Shepard's legacy reminds us of the urgency to confront bigotry and embrace people of all backgrounds, gender identities and sexual orientations," saidRandolph Marshall Hollerith, a reverend and dean of Washington National Cathedral, in the news release. "We hope the Cathedral continues to be a sacred space that offers support and strength for all who visit."
The portrait dedication on December 1 ended a day filled with events that celebrating Shepard's life on what would have been his 46th birthday.
The Cathedral also hosted an online service of Morning Prayer led by V. Gene Robinson, the first openly gay priest to be consecrated a bishop in the Episcopal Church.
The church said that the portrait was dedicated in a service in the Cathedral's crypt, titled "Remember, Reflect, Resolve," near the site where Shepard's ashes were interred in 2018, 20 years after his death.
It took 20 years to find a place for his remains because Shepard's parents were concerned that wherever they would place his ashes would be vandalized.
In 2009, the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act became the first federal hate crime statute protecting victims targeted due to their sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability.
In the news release about the unveiling, the cathedral said it has been a longtime supporter for LGBTQ+ rights. The release said that it "considers LGBTQ equality one of the great civil rights issues of the 21st century."
The events at the cathedral were co-sponsored with the Matthew Shepard Foundation.