There were more of us than there were of them, so we were able to whoop them soundly and run them off. Then we celebrated what felt like a righteous victory deep into the night. Shortly after, I left the state for about 14 years. During that time, it appeared to me that gay rights had made great strides — not least with the incremental support to legalize gay marriage nationwide.
Living in places as different from each other as Buenos Aires, Chicago and New Orleans, I witnessed homophobia now and then, but not nearly as often as I saw jubilant demonstrations of gay pride — or, more frequently, plain old gay normalcy. He was 20 years old. Many people in Wyoming, for instance, have gone to great lengths to emphasize that both Shepard and his killers may have been high the night he was tied to a fence and pistol-whipped. But rather than adding nuance to the conversation — perhaps by acknowledging that anti-gay violence is sometimes drug-related, too — this emphasis is meant to silence people who might suggest Wyoming has a problem.
Anti-gay violence in Wyoming is real, and it deserves a real response.
Hate Crimes Prevention Act. Forty-five states have passed similar laws that empower state-level authorities. Wyoming is not one of them.
It is time we changed that. Few of us believe that harsher criminal punishments can cure social ills. Hate-crime bills often include tougher sentencing provisions, but just as meaningful are the signals that enacting such laws send. It would communicate that acknowledgement and honest discussion of the problem are necessary if we want to stop the violence.
A bill would also tell those at risk that they are not alone in facing anti-gay violence or abuse. It would let them know that we, as a state, have their backs. This is the Wild West. He is a freelance writer in Laramie, Wyoming.
Then I moved back to Wyoming. A cross marked the fence where Matthew Shepard was beaten and left to die in The fence has since been torn down. Republish Like Tweet Email Print.
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