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Sixteen Years After Her Son's Death, Judy Shepard Celebrates Marriage Equality In Wyoming

As same-sex marriages begin in Wyoming this week, Judy Shepard speaks to BuzzFeed News about the changes that have occurred since she lost her son, Matthew Shepard, to a hate crime.

Posted on October 22, 2014, at 2:27 p.m. ET

On the night of Oct. 6, 1998, a 21-year-old gay college student named Matthew Shepard was attacked and left for dead in Laramie, Wyoming.

Sixteen years later, Wyoming is now the 32nd state, plus Washington, D.C., with marriage equality. The significance of this event is not lost on the many people touched by Shepard's story.

I was 17 when they killed a 21 yr old gay kid in Laramie. Matt Shepard would be 37 now. And Wyoming has #FreedomToMarry today.

Sara Benincasa@SaraJBenincasaFollow

I was 17 when they killed a 21 yr old gay kid in Laramie. Matt Shepard would be 37 now. And Wyoming has #FreedomToMarry today.

5:11 PM - 17 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

BuzzFeed news spoke with Judy Shepard to hear her own take on the historical moment, which she said brought up many memories.

Mel Melcon/Los Angeles Times / MCT

Judy Shepard recalled a conversation she once had with her son concerning marriage equality:

"I had had a conversation with Matt in 1998 and he asked me if I thought it would ever happen – if marriage equality would come to Wyoming. I thought: In my lifetime? No. But I thought he would see it in his. It turned out to be the complete opposite," said Shepard.

She also stressed her concern over citizens of Wyoming becoming complacent with this victory. "You can still be fired in Wyoming for being gay. Adoption is still an issue and housing is still an issue. We still have a lot of work to do!"

Judy Shepard also posted a touching message to Facebook contrasting the mood and atmosphere in Laramie, Wyoming, over the years since her son's death:

Published with Judy Shepard's permission

She can add Oct. 21, 2014, to this list. The day the first legal same-sex marriages occurred in the state of Wyoming.

A.J. McDaniel and Jennifer Mumaugh wait to get the 1st same sex marriage license in Laramie County, Wyoming

Carlie McGuire@KGWN_CarlieFollow

A.J. McDaniel and Jennifer Mumaugh wait to get the 1st same sex marriage license in Laramie County, Wyoming

11:59 AM - 21 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

Couples ready to get married in Cheyenne Wyoming! #MarriageEquality

Matthew@mistabakaFollow

Couples ready to get married in Cheyenne Wyoming! #MarriageEquality

12:01 PM - 21 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

1st license in Natrona County #Wyoming. #Gaymarriage

Laura Hancock@laurahancockFollow

1st license in Natrona County #Wyoming. #Gaymarriage

12:15 PM - 21 Oct 14ReplyRetweetFavorite

When asked if Matthew would have been in Wyoming to celebrate this day if possible, his mother replied: "He loved to travel; he would have been in every state celebrating."

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