On the Road With Laramie

BY Advocate Contributors

August 25 2010 11:25 AM ET


Mercedes Herrero (flanked by Amy Resnick and Scott Barrow) portrays Elizabeth Vargas, who reported the 20/20 story “Matthew Shepard: Secrets of a Murder.” In it, she interviews Aaron McKinney, and the parts of the interview that they choose to use in the segment imply that Aaron and his friend Russell Henderson wanted only to rob Matthew and that the crime became so violent because the boys were “strung out” on meth. Many people consider the 20/20 program the last word on the subject.

A hate crime is defined as a crime in which part or all of the motivation for that crime is the perpetrator’s perception of the sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or gender identity of the victim. Aaron has acknowledged that that was part of his motivation. The drug theory was entirely disproved by evidence admitted in trial. The extreme overkill documented at the crime scene demonstrates that the murder went way beyond a botched robbery. And still people point to this 20/20 episode as “proof.”

The motives to deny in this way are complex and certainly go beyond simple homophobia. I have been to Laramie many times. The community is not unusually homophobic. I have been in other places where I felt much less safe as a gay man. Provo, Utah, springs to mind.

Tags: Theater