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Wyoming still won’t have hate crime legislation 23 years after Matthew Shepard’s murder


Matthew Shepard was killed in a brutal hate crime in 1998. His parents fought for hate crimes legislation after his death. Photo: via Wikipedia President Barack Obama signed into federal law the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act in October 2009, just over 11 years after gay college student Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die near Laramie, Wyoming.

Yet, as the 23rd anniversary of his murder comes, the state of Wyoming itself — which boasts the official nickname “The Equality State” — will still not have legislation that recognizes or seeks to prevent hate crimes.

The Wyoming legislature, currently under a Republican supermajority in both houses, has shelved (or refused to pass) any hate crimes legislation although there have been attempts since Shepard’s murder.

The latest attempt, H.B. 218, was introduced by Rep. Pat Sweeney (R) two weeks ago with bipartisan support and co-sponsorship. The bill, if passed, would define bias motivated crimes in the state law, outline elements of such crimes, and create civil and criminal penalties. It would also require anti-bias training for law enforcement and peace officers, and reporting of hate crime data by criminal justice agencies to the FBI.

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