On October 6, 1998, Matthew Shepard was robbed, tortured, and left to die at the age of 21 near Laramie, Wyoming. He was taken to the hospital where he died days later from severe head injuries. During the trial of his assailants, it was widely reported that Shepard was targeted because he was gay. Shepard’s murder brought national and international attention to hate crime legislation at both the state and federal levels.
To this day, Wyoming remains one of three states without hate crime legislation. The latest attempt at such legislation, H.B. 218, was introduced at the beginning of this month 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.
The bill reads, “A person commits a bias‑motivated crime if the person: Intentionally selects a person or property to be affected by the commission of a crime… 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.” However, when the proposed legislation went before the Wyoming House Judiciary Committee on March 11, it was shelved for the remainder of the 2021 legislative session.
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