What happened to Matthew Shepard on October 6th, 1998 was a horrific tragedy. He was beaten, terrorized, and murdered all because of his sexual orientation. When news of this story broke, America when into a media frenzy. Every news station in the country covered this story. The amount of media attention this story got compared to other, similar cases is incomparable. This might have to do with the fact that this was no regular crime, this was a hate crime.
On the night of October 6th, 1998 Matthew Shepard was at a bar in his hometown of Laramie, Wyoming. He was approached by Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who pretended to be gay to gain his trust and intended to rob him. He left with the two other men, who then took him into the woods, stole all his personal belongings. Then beat, and tortured him and left him there to die. He was discovered eighteen hours later by a bike rider. Who initially thought he was a scarecrow. Matthew was alive but completely covered in blood. The only part of his face that was not covered in blood, was the trail of tears on his cheeks. Due to the severity of his injuries, he died in the hospital six days later. (Matthews Story)
Matthew Shepard’s story is no regular murder, it was a hate crime. A hate crime is a crime that is driven by hate. Hating someone based on something that they cannot control. It is a form of discrimination and is a serious crime in the United States. Matthew was not murdered randomly. He was picked out because he was gay. Hate crimes have become an epidemic in the United States. These type of crimes are becoming even more common. Especially crimes involving sexual orientation. This story was heavily covered in the news. It was on every news station in the country. The LGBT community went into an uproar when news of this story broke. There was protests and vigils for Matthew all over the country. But despite all this media coverage, Matthew was lost in the story. All the stories became about hate crimes and homophobia and less about what actually happened to Matthew. His family received over ten thousand letters and seventy thousand emails. However, they were all mostly about the over exaggerated stories that came from the media. Many things were over exaggerated to increase ratings of the news stations. Claiming things such as how he apparently got burned. Or how reports state that Wyoming is a “hate state” and homophobic, which Wyoming strongly disagreed with. This murder was only one of the many deaths from hate crimes that year. This story in particular got an enormous amount of media attention. Many people believe that the reason this story got more attention than others is because of Matthews’s image. He was a classic pretty boy with an open, outgoing personality. Who wouldn’t love him? (Losing Matt Shepard) Laramie, Wyoming got an extremely negative backlash after this event. Laramie, was a rural, poor, and conservative town. No gay bar or bookstore anywhere in sight. The entire town as a whole was labeled as homophobic. But, that is not true. This whole town got punished because of two men’s actions. That is completely unfair. The way that the media made the town of Laramie look, was awful, false, and completely unnecessary. There was an enormous amount of fabrications told by the media. Just to make the articles sound more interesting and sell more copies. Matthew Shepard’s murder brought national attention to hate crime legislation, at state and nationwide levels. During coverage of this incident, crimes committed on the basis of sexual orientation were not even prosecutable as a hate crime. The public demanded that this be changed. Then president, Bill Clinton