Hate crime laws are still broken in America

In 1998, Matthew Shepard was savagely beaten by two men in Wyoming with the butt of a pistol while tied down to a fence. When a cyclist found him 18 hours later, the former thought Shepard was a scarecrow because of how limp he looked. Days later, Shepard died. Shepard suffered this tragedy just because he was gay.

Twenty years later, Shepard’s parents have decided to move him to the Episcopal Church because they believed he deserved a proper burial, and the people of the church agreed.

The Episcopal dean selected Shepard to be interred at the church because of the "national importance" Shepard held and his "lasting contribution to humanity."

The community has also been vocal about LGBTQ equality, from hosting a same-sex wedding in 2010 to welcoming its first transgender preacher in 2014.

There have been great strides in the LGBTQ community since 1998, such as the ability to now "serve openly in the military, work as TV news anchors and federal judges, win elections as big city mayors and members of Congress," as stated by Daily Herald.

In addition, in June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that it was a fundamental right for same-sex couples to marry because of due process and the Equal Protection Clause.

Now, 37 states and the District of Columbia have legalized same-sex marriage, while the other states have "enacted constitutional or statutory bans on same-sex marriage, known as 'Defense of Marriage Acts,'" as recorded by Governing magazine.

Since 1998, there have been great strides in the LGBTQ community, but there are still 15 states that will not "address sexual orientation or gender identity in their hate crime laws," and "another five states have no hate crime laws at all," CNN said. It is appalling to find out that without laws defining hate crimes against the community, many perpetrators can walk scot-free.

Moreover, the state of Wyoming is one of the many states that does not recognize the 1998 incident as a hate crime. Even in 2018, there are still people that state that the crimes against Matthew Shepard were not "hate related."

It was not until 2009 when former President Barack Obama signed the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act — "named for a black man who was killed by three white supremacists in Jasper, Texas" — where it expanded the 1969 hate crime law by including hate crimes against "victim’s actual or perceived gender, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity."

Though the current administration is critical when it comes to the efforts of the LGBTQ community, advocates have started to vote for politicians who are able to make progressive change. In addition, the MAP, or Movement Advanced Project, has created a website dedicated to the progress and lists advocates for change.

It is now up to the people to continue to vote for a change in laws, a law that will speak up for and defend Matthew Shepard.

-Alison Lui

Accounting '22

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