LGBTQ

Craig Hella Johnson
James Goulden

Considering Matthew Shepard is a three-part oratorio responding to Matthew Shepard's 1998 murder. Released in 2016, the piece moves through the events of Shepard's life and death using a chorus and a chamber ensemble. It was written by composer Craig Hella Johnson. During the 20th anniversary of Shepard's death, Johnson has toured the work around the country and will perform it in Laramie October 6, the day Shepard was robbed and beaten. Reporter Cooper McKim speaks with Johnson about the work and the role of art around Shepard's death.

Matthew Shepard Foundation

20 years ago this weekend, Matthew Shepard encountered Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson at the Fireside bar in Laramie. McKinney told police that he noticed that Shepard had money and decided to rob him. He admitted that he thought Shepard would be an easy target because he was small in stature and appeared to be gay. 

Albany County Sheriff David O'Malley

From the time they learned about the Shepard attack, it was a busy time for Laramie law enforcement and the legal community as they dealt with the two people accused of murdering Matthew Shepard. The case had intense media scrutiny and international interest that overwhelmed residents of Laramie. Wyoming Public Radio's Bob Beck caught up with three people who were very closely involved in the case. A police investigator, a judge and a defense attorney who discuss their memories and what they think happened.


Julie Heggie

Matthew Shepard's murder was a shock to everyone in the city of Laramie…but especially to gay and lesbian couples living there. One couple was especially close to the crime. Julie Heggie was the county coroner and attended Matthew Shepard’s autopsy. Her partner at the time was Gayle Woodsum, a victim's advocate. Wyoming Public Radio's Melodie Edwards sat down with them to remember when Heggie got a strange phone call at three in the morning. She says it was the only time in her long career that she ever got a call concerning someone who hadn't died yet.

MKK Consulting Engineers, Inc.

In a theatre class at Laramie High School, a dozen upperclassmen sit around a table on the stage. The class is studying and performing The Laramie Project, a play about the community's response to the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard.

Photo by Benson Kua via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

In order to convince tech companies to set up shop in Wyoming, some believe there needs to be a statewide anti-discrimination law on the books. That would change state law to provide protections to LGBTQ people that others already have. Supporters say such a law will resolve a perception problem the state has had since the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Tennessee Watson

There are two communities in Wyoming with anti-discrimination ordinances: Jackson and Laramie. Outside city limits and across the rest of the state, LGBTQ individuals who face discrimination aren't protected by the law. But that didn't stop Kassi Willingham from moving back to her hometown of Rock Springs after a few years in Colorado.

Kamila Kudelska

Matthew Shepard's murder occurred far from Cody, but the Wyoming town still felt the effect of the tragedy. While many know about it, the event hasn't markedly changed the culture in that part of the state. A lack of a support system for the LGBTQ community is energizing some to move forward to create a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) club.

James Goulden

The three-part oratorio Considering Matthew Shepard moves through the life and death of Shepard and the resulting trial alternating in genre and perspective throughout. The large-scale composition written for an orchestra and chorus was written by Craig Hella Johnson. The piece touches on western themes, religious ones, as well as focusing on Shepard's humanity.

Feb 2018 Conspirare Performance -- Craig Hella Johnson, composer of Considering Matthew Shepard
Marlee Crawford / University of Mississippi

It's been twenty years since the brutal murder of Matthew Shepard in Laramie, Wyoming. One legacy of his hate-motivated death is the wide collection of artistic responses.

Gobonobo / wikipedia

Next week is the 20 year anniversary of the murder of gay University of Wyoming student Matthew Shepard, an event that sparked national media coverage and fierce controversy. One of the people who covered the case from the start was Wyoming Public Radio news director Bob Beck. He joined Morning Edition host Caroline Ballard to discuss his memories, how the event impacted people and Wyoming, and what LGBTQ issues still remain.

Gobonobo / wikipedia

The University of Wyoming and the city of Laramie plan a series of events this fall to remember the 20-year anniversary of the death of Matthew Shepard. Shepard was an openly gay student who was kidnapped, tied to a fence and pistol-whipped to death. He has become a national symbol for the LGBTQ community. 

Caroline Ballard

A new mural in downtown Laramie will be dedicated as one of the first events of Laramie PrideFest. The mural features notable people affiliated with social justice and civil rights in the state - including suffragists, the University of Wyoming Black 14, and the action angels that blocked Westboro Baptist Church protestors at the Matthew Shepard murder trial almost 20 years ago. Wyoming Public Radio’s Caroline Ballard visited the mural and spoke with the artist behind it, Adrienne Vetter.

The Executive Committee of the Teton County Republican Party says it’s formally supporting a Jackson ordinance that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. 

Laramie PrideFest

Laramie will host its second annual Pride celebration at the end of June. Laramie PrideFest will begin with a proclamation of Pride Month by the Laramie City Council Tuesday, June 26. 

Wyoming Equality


Starting this fall, Wyoming Equality will offer scholarships specifically for LGBTQ students. Melanie Vigil, the Co-Chair for the organization’s board, spoke with Wyoming Public Radio’s Maggie Mullen about how the scholarships will be the first of their kind in the state.

In the summer of 2012, fiancés David Mullins and Charlie Craig tried to order a wedding cake from a shop in a Denver suburb. The owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop refused to serve the same-sex couple because of his Christian beliefs. Now, the Supreme Court has sided with the baker, but not for the reason you might expect.

Dennis and Judy Shepard
Bob Beck

20 years ago this fall, an openly gay University of Wyoming student was robbed, tied to a fence, brutally beaten, and left for dead on the outskirts of Laramie. He died a few days later. The murder of Matthew Shepard was called a hate crime by local law enforcement officers and it lead to worldwide attention on the topic of LGBTQ rights. His parents Dennis and Judy Shepard remain residents of Wyoming and have dedicated themselves to fight discrimination in the name of their son. Wyoming Public Radio’s Bob Beck talked to them about a number of topics including what it was like to return to Laramie.

Jewlicious

At the Matthew Shepard Symposium hosted last week at the University of Wyoming, protesters gathered outside with signs denouncing the LGBTQ community. The group was from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, and nearly 20 years ago, they also picketed Matthew Shepard’s funeral.

But inside the symposium, a former Westboro Church member was preparing to speak. Megan Phelps-Roper was there to explain that when she started engaging in civil dialogue over Twitter, her entire worldview changed.

Town of Thayne's website

A lawsuit against the town of Thayne accuses its Mayor and town council members of discriminating against a married gay couple because of their sexual orientation.

According to the lawsuit, Rusty and Marc Andrus bought “Rustlers Restaurant and Saloon” in 2015, and brought the building back up to the proper electrical and fire codes, and added restrooms, handicap accessibility, and a full commercial kitchen.

But when the couple approached the town of Thayne to get a liquor license, the suit says they were the focus of discrimination. 

Darrah Perez

The holiday season can be tough for people grieving loved ones, but it can be especially difficult for those of the LGBTQ community.

Layha Spoonhunter is one of the Two-Spirit Leadership Circle members, an LGBTQ group on Wind River Reservation that recently gathered to honor those who have been killed because of their identity.

“I have seen changes through our community, but I haven’t seen them at the rapid rate I want to see,” said Spoonhunter.

Photo by Benson Kua via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0

Laramie will host its first pridefest this month.

Pridefest organizer Robert West said this is a momentous occasion for Laramie since the town became so well-known after the murder of Matthew Shepard.

Sara Burlingame and Mike Lehman

 

Last year, after intense debate, the city of Cheyenne adopted an anti-discrimination resolution to protect members of the LGBT community and in this legislative session, lawmakers have tried and failed to pass state laws on both sides of the issue.

In the midst of all that, though, an unlikely friendship sprouted up.

Brooklynn Gray

Hundreds of University of Wyoming students, faculty, and community members protested the outcome of last week’s election with a Solidarity Walk Out Monday.

Reports of discrimination and harassment of minorities have increased across the U.S. in recent days. The solidarity walk, which started at the Wyoming Union before heading downtown and back, was meant to show support for LGBTQ individuals, Muslims, immigrants and other marginalized groups.

Human Rights Campaign

Wyoming’s cities rank below the national average in protections for LGBTQ residents, according to new ratings from the Human Rights Campaign.  

The group scored hundreds of cities across the nation in their Municipal Equality Index, giving points for non-discrimination laws, transgender-inclusive healthcare benefits and other policies.

Despite the low ratings, Sarah Burlingame of the advocacy group Wyoming Equality says there is growing support for LGBTQ rights around the state.