Ignorance kills gay UW student

Jennifer Parsons, Editor in Chief
Jennifer Parsons, Editor in Chief

Imagine being pistol-whipped, burned and tied to a wooden fence, left to die, because of sexual orientation.

This happened to Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old political science major at the University of Wyoming, last week because he was gay.

High school dropouts Russell Henderson, 21, and Aaron McKinney, 22, who may attribute his brutality to embarrassment by Shepard making a pass at McKinney in a bar earlier that night, committed this “hate crime,” which led to Shepard’s death Monday.

Shepard was found unconscious, nearly dead, 18 hours after he had been left tied to the fence. He stayed on life support, never regaining consciousness before he died.

Although police are saying the weapon used in the attack must have been a handgun, doctors have reason to believe that it was a rifle or baseball bat, according to Shannon Rexroat, editor in chief of the Branding Iron, UW’s daily newspaper.

“It is not so much that he was gay, but that he is one of us, a person, and this was done to him,” said Rexroat. “There is a sense of outrage and now more kind of mournful and frustrated. We don’t really know what to do. On this campus, we are free to do our own thing. All granted, we are not very diverse. Whether it is sexuality, gender or race, it does not matter, and that’s why it is so shocking to our campus.”

No one should be physically beaten or murdered based on their religion, race, gender or sexual orientation.

Whether Shepard “made a pass” at McKinney is irrelevant and unjustifiable to the case. People make passes at others on a daily basis and are turned down. There are not many known cases of a male being beaten and tied to a fence because he asked a female out. What is the difference? Murder is not condoned because the victim brought “embarrassment” to the killer.

These occurrences are not far from home, either. Just two and a half years ago, a student at the University of La Verne was beaten by two other students because he was gay. One student was acquitted, while the other received three years probation and 60 days in county jail — a slap on the wrist for beating an innocent human being who happened to have a different lifestyle than their own.

What happened to celebrating diversity? No one is asking these hate-filled, narrow-minded, ignorant people to agree with what others practice, believe or live by. All that is expected is respecting one’s rights and opinions.

Shepard was gay. And? So what! That does not justify these men’s actions. Who do they think they are? Hitler? Every man that does not look, act and think the same as them must be abolished? No, that is not the way it works.

Why are people so hung up on homosexuality? Many feel that, as long as homosexuals are not open and “flaunt” it in everyone’s face, it is all right. I am sick of double standards. Why is it that heterosexuals do not stop “flaunting” it?

Beating someone will not change their sexual orientation. Are others scared that they will be tempted into a homosexual lifestyle? The logic here is ridiculous.

Henderson and McKinney do not deserve mercy. They are a threat to society, are inhumane and are cold-blooded.

If Shepard did “make a pass,” would it have been so difficult to simply tell him they were uninterested?

What they did was murder a man who had his whole life ahead of him. Maybe he was to be the next doctor or president. Maybe he was the average Joe.

Shepard could have worn a sign that read, “I am gay,” and asked every male on campus out on a date. This would still be no cause to murder him.

He had the same rights as every other person, until two close-minded men, threatened by something they apparently knew nothing about, decided to defy the law by ending another’s life.

Shepard cannot be brought back to this world. His family and friends will never be free of the grief and sorrow they feel.

Hopefully, Henderson and McKinney will never walk free again — they made sure that Shepard will not.

Jennifer Parsons, a junior journalism major, is editor in chief of the Campus Times. She can be reached by e-mail at parsonsj@ulv.edu.

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