updated 06/26/2013 AT 1:00 PM ET
•originally published 06/26/2013 AT 2:00 PM ET
It’s been almost 15 years since Matthew Shepard was lynched on a Wyoming fencepost for being gay and his mother, Judy, remembers with tears the conversation she and her son had just a couple of months before his October 1998 murder.
“There had been a [news] story about same-sex marriage and he was debating it with me,” Shepard told PEOPLE Wednesday after the historic Supreme Court ruling in favor of gay marriage. “He asked me if I thought gay couples would ever be allowed to get married and he wasn’t at all optimistic it would happen. He was in a mindset of, ‘People are never going to accept us or understand us.’ It was a much different world then. There was activism happening, yes. And we were moving on from the AIDS pandemic. But ignorance and the fear out there was its own pandemic. For Matthew, it was a very secret world still.”