Wyoming lawmakers unveil hate crimes legislation

Wyoming lawmakers unveil hate crimes legislation
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Wyoming lawmakers introduced a bill on Tuesday that seeks to define and ban bias‑motivated crimes, as the state remains one of three without hate crime legislation.

The legislation, HB0218, would make someone guilty of committing a hate crime if they targeted someone for illegal action based on their “perceived race, color, ethnicity, religion, national origin, sexual orientation, sex, gender, gender identity or expression, or physical, intellectual or developmental disability.”

It would also require that all law enforcement recruits and trainees receive training in identifying bias-motivated crimes.

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Multiple proposed state hate crime bills have failed to pass in Wyoming, CBS News reports.

Wyoming is where gay college student Matthew Shepard was killed in 1998, and CBS notes that a federal anti-hate crime bill was named after him in 2009.

"Not only are we the state where Matthew Shepard was murdered and the state that has rejected hate crime legislation on several occasions, we now have other instances where I think it's valuable for us to recognize systemic racism and system homophobia, and to be able to do something about it via the statutes," state Rep. Cathy Connolly (D), a co-sponsor of the bill, told CBS.

Former Wyoming state Rep. Sara Burlingame (D) reportedly said that the lack of hate crime legislation in the Equality State is an "abdication of our values as Wyomingites."

"I think Wyoming is at a decision point around what kind of state we want to be, what kind of reputation we want to have nationally and how we want to move into the future," said Wyoming minister Hannah Villnave, who serves on the board of Wyoming Equality along with Burlingame, according to CBS.