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Matthew Shepard 1976-1998
Section 1 of 16

hey buried Matthew Shepard on my birthday. While I may look forward to at least the possibility of 20 or 30 more happy and productive years, the very meaning of the word "possibility" was taken forever from Matthew.

Matthew was fatally beaten and left to die in Laramie, Wyoming. He was just 21. He was murdered because he was gay.


Matthew might have been black. He might have been wearing the garments of the Orthodox Jew. He might have been born Asian. But he wasn't. He was a member of another, different group of citizens, who are also singled out for assault and murder by a nonrandom selection criteria. Matthew was born gay.

The Laramie police say the primary motive for murder was robbery. This was easy to for them to establish, because investigators were able to detect that his wallet and shoes had, indeed, been taken. The death of the victim cannot be explained away so conveniently.

The police also acknowledge that a hate crime "may" have occurred. There is ample evidence Matthew was lured to his death with all deliberate malice aforethought, because he was gay, and because the perpetrators "hated" gays.

There is no question that most of the town of Laramie feels badly about this tragedy.

There is no question that Matthew's parents, Judy and Dennis Shepard, will grieve forever at the irreplaceable loss of their son who was cruelly and foully taken from them.

There is no question that this nation mourned the loss of Matthew.

There is no question that this particular murder was, and will be, the focus of extraordinary attention on gay bashings and hate crime of all types.

There is no question that at least one of the perpetrators feels remorse for this crime.

There is not even any question that this murder is pronounced indefensible and reprehensible by most (but not all) of those churches which have most actively worked to fan and inflame anti-gay hatred.

There is no question whether those churches and organizations will continue to fan hatred with the dissemination of the rabid anti-gay slurs which have become the hallmark of the "religious right" in recent years. These churches will continue to do so.

There is little or no question that Russell Arthur Henderson, 21, and Aaron James McKinney, 22, who physically murdered Matthew Shepard, will be convicted of murder. It is plausible that they will be convicted under existing hate crime laws.

There is no question that, after that, these murders will continue.

I am going to press the point that existing laws should have been adequate to prevent this, but were not. The most casual student of the history and development of Nazi Germany would recognize the similarities. I will address this point strongly in this article, and shall rewrite it and rewrite it again and again until I make the point exactly and unequivocally.

It amazes me that we shared this country for two hundred years with throwbacks who proclaimed, "the Constitution don't say nothing about no nigger rights, and they ain't gittin' none either."

After we added the race, color and creed clauses they said, "Fine, they got they damn rights, but not in my restaurant and not in our town!"

Equally amazing is that some people, who profess to care for this country, can look at the sordid record and still stick to their story that the existing laws were adequate then and are adequate now.

This is not a question of mere viewpoint, but of established track record. This is not a question of personal opinion and of freedoms of expression and association, but of institutionalized murder and flagrant conspiracy to violate the civil rights of a large proportion of the population of the United States of America.

The only question is, "Why?"



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