New Documentary Is A Powerful Tribute To Matthew Shepard, 25 Years After His Death

A poignant new documentary promises an in-depth look at Matthew Shepard’s life and legacy, a quarter-century after his death.

On Thursday, Investigation Discovery unveiled a trailer for “The Matthew Shepard Story: An American Hate Crime.” Due out Oct. 9, the two-hour special is touted as a “timely tribute to Matthew’s story at a time when the LGBTQ+ community is once again under attack.”

Adam Lambert, Rosie O’Donnell and Andrew Rannells are among the queer celebrities interviewed for the ID project. Each of them offers a stirring anecdote about how they were impacted by Shepard’s death.

“I think we all recognized pieces of ourselves in this story,” Rannells, a two-time Tony Award nominee, says in the trailer.

Adds O’Donnell: “I was devastated by Matthew’s death. My soul ached.”

Watch the trailer for “The Matthew Shepard Story: An American Hate Crime” below. 

Shepard, a gay man, died in a Colorado hospital on Oct. 12, 1998, six days after he was attacked in nearby Laramie, Wyoming. He was 21.

The University of Wyoming student was beaten, robbed and left tied to a fence in a secluded field by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson. Both are serving life sentences.

As the documentary shows, Shepard’s death has come to be embraced by activists as a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement, on par with the 1969 Stonewall uprising and same-sex marriage becoming law across the U.S. in 2015. He’s been the subject of numerous books, films and songs, as well as an opera and a stage play.

In 2009, then-President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, expanding a 1969 federal hate crime law to include crimes motivated by a victim’s sexuality and gender identity.

Matthew Shepard’s 1998 death is seen as a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement.
Matthew Shepard’s 1998 death is seen as a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement.

Matthew Shepard’s 1998 death is seen as a turning point in the LGBTQ rights movement.

“This tragedy ignited an incredibly emotional and influential chapter in the fight against LGBTQ+ discrimination that brought great progress,” Turner Networks President Jason Sarlanis said in a statement.

“By revisiting Matthew’s story, we hope to educate a whole new generation and underscore the power love and acceptance play in continuing the fight against violence and discrimination in all its forms.”

Shepard’s parents, Dennis and Judy Shepard, have remained staunch advocates for the queer community. They say they hope their son’s legacy will serve as a stern warning to anyone who has overlooked ongoing efforts by conservative lawmakers to strip away LGBTQ rights.

“If you don’t study history, you will repeat it,” Dennis Shepard told the U.K. outlet PinkNews in March. “If you’re docile, you deserve what you get. And I can’t – I will not – allow myself to be docile.”