Assault on Wyoming student shows need for hate crime laws

(U-WIRE) FORT COLLINS, Colo. – The death of Matthew Shepard has given us an unfortunate perspective on how backward our society still is.

That this sort of crime was even committed is the most depressing fact of all. Matthew was 5-2 and weighed 105 pounds. He was savagely attacked by two men easily twice his size. These two “men,” Henderson and McKinney, beat him almost to death and left him tied to a fence.

There is no question that this was a hate crime. If it were just a robbery, as Henderson and McKinney’s girlfriends claim, there would be no reason to beat Shepard or to leave him tied up. They had guns, they could have simply taken Shepard’s money and left.

Instead, they killed him.

They killed him because he was a homosexual and they felt threatened by him, which is why we need hate crime laws.

There can be no question that an assault on someone simply because their race, creed or sexual orientation is different is utterly deplorable. It also is fundamentally different than assaulting someone in a bar fight or a violent disagreement. We need laws to prosecute people for hate crimes, because the kind of person who would commit a hate crime needs to be removed from society.

In the case of Henderson and McKinney, we need to remove them permanently. There has never been a more appropriate time to use the death penalty. These two deliberately killed Shepard because he was gay. People who commit a crime like that once will do it again, because their anger is directed at an entire population, not just an individual.

We have seen an ugly side of our society in the past few days. The beating and death of Matthew Shepard and the people saying he got what he deserved have all been mind-numbingly horrible.

We can all learn from this, however. We can learn tolerance. We must learn to accept the different lifestyles of those around us and treat them with respect.

-Scott Burger is a student at Colorado State University. The op-ed originally appeared in CSU’s Rocky Mountain Collegian.

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