Legislators in Wyoming have just introduced a bill that would fight hate crimes in the state.
Wyoming is known as one of the most advanced states in the country when highlighting social issues, supporting equal rights, and combating racism. It was the first state to grant women the right to vote, and eventually, it became “The Equality State” for its forward-thinking and legal actions.
On Tuesday, lawmakers introduced a hate crime bill after being urged by advocates in the state where gay college student Matthew Shepard was killed in 1998, according to CBS News. The bill would apply to predators who go after a victim or their property “in whole or in part because of the actual or perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or physical, intellectual or developmental disability of the person affected regardless of whether the belief or perception of the person committing the crime was correct.”
While Wyoming is known for its advanced government, Shepard’s killing has been cemented in the state’s history, spearheading the LGBTQ rights movement across the nation, CBS News reports.
Shepard’s mother, Judy, says people have asked, “Isn’t that where that gay kid was murdered?” when they’ve seen her wearing a Wyoming shirt. “That’s how they talked about it — ‘They murder gay kids there,'” said Shepard, who, along with her husband Dennis Shepard, advocates against hate through the Matthew Shepard Foundation. “That’s the reputation it has. [The legislature] could have fixed that 20 years ago, but they chose not to.”
Matthew Shepard, 21, was a gay American student at the University of Wyoming who was beaten and tortured on October 6, 1998. His attackers left him near Laramie to die. Rescuers eventually took Shepard to Powder Valley Hospital in Fort Collins, Colorado. He died six days later.
Rest in peace, Matthew.