The Passion of Matthew Shepard By William Hart McNichols © www.fatherbill.orgMatthew Shepard (1976-1998) brought international attention to anti-gay hate crimes when he died on Oct. 12, 1998.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Matthew Shepard Act on Thursday (Oct. 8), broadening the federal hate-crimes law to cover violence based on sexual orientation and gender identity. The Senate is expected to vote on it within days.
Shepard was a 21-year-old gay student at the University of Wyoming at the time of his death. He was brutally attacked near Laramie, Wyoming, on Oct. 6-7, 1998 by two men who later claimed that they were driven temporarily insane by “gay panic” due to Shepard’s alleged sexual advances. Shepard was beaten and left to die. The officer who found him said that he was covered with blood -- except for the white streaks left by his tears. Father William Hart McNichols created a striking icon based on his report. McNichols dedicated his icon The Passion of Matthew Shepard to the 1,470 gay and lesbian youth of commit suicide in the U.S. each year, and to the countless others who are injured or murdered. Now the Matthew Shepard Foundation seeks to replace hate with understanding, compassion and acceptance. McNichols is a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico. After earning a Master of Fine Arts from the Pratt Institute in New York, he studied icon painting with the Russian-American master Robert Lentz. Like Lentz, he paints some icons with contemporary subjects, as well as many with classical themes. McNichols’ own moving spiritual journey and two of his icons are included in the book Art That Dares: Gay Jesus, Woman Christ, and More by Kittredge Cherry. P.S. President Obama signed "The Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act" into law on Oct. 28, 2009.
This post is part of the new GLBT Saints series at the Jesus in Love Blog. Saints and holy people of special interest to gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) people and our allies are covered on appropriate dates throughout the year.