Matthew Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was abducted by two men shortly after midnight on Oct. 7, 1998. The men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, drove Shepard east of town, where they tied him to a split-rail fence and repeatedly beat him with the butt end of a pistol. He died several days later of his wounds. The murder made headlines around the world and transformed Shepard into a symbol. Much as the fatal beating of Emmett Till came to symbolize the discrimination suffered by African Americans in the Jim Crow South almost a half century before, Shepard became the face of violence against gay, lesbian and transgender people. Wyoming was never quite the same. Today, the Star-Tribune takes stock of where the Cowboy State stands 15-years after Shepard's death. What has changed? What hasn't? Most gays and lesbians say life has improved. People are more accepting and less prone to stereotypes. But only a few agreed to speak publicly. Some cited family concerns. Others are simply private people. One man feared he could lose his job. His buddy works for the same company in a Colorado office, which by law could be sued if he was fired for his sexuality. Wyoming carries no such protections. Maybe nothing would change if his picture and name appeared in the newspaper. He didn’t want to take that chance. Several people did agree to talk. They said they hoped their stories could shed some light on a state that’s moving forward, but still has a long way to go. - Christine Peterson and Benjamin Storrow

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Janet Youngholm met her partner after a softball game in rural Wyoming. She doesn't remember the exact town anymore. It was the late '70s, and…

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They used to keep their friends separate. If they had a dinner party with straight friends, they’d only invite straight friends. If they had a…

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Mike Fostmeier, 26, is the operations manager for his family’s Casper construction company. He works in a conservative industry in a conservat…

(13) comments

Mark Warneke
Mark Warneke

Ellen actually came out on the cover of Time magazine before talking about it with Oprah.

Michael Parido

I live 1000 miles away from Laramie, I never met Matt. But I think of him often. It still breaks my heart every time. Godspeed to his loved ones, I know it must still hurt them deeply.

Rev Donald
Rev Donald

Homosexuality should be criminalized. Homosexuals commit crimes against God and against the Holy Bible. After reading this story I now know why God wrote:
Leviticus 20:13 If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.
Romans 1:24 Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves:
:26 For this cause God gave them up unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature:
:27 And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.


Using the Bible to spread hate and evil is a sin to all those who know the divine creator.


Maybe someone should tell Enzi supporters about this. Apparently, Liz Cheney is not damning the homosexuals sufficiently and we need Enzi to put them in their place. That makes Enzi "right for Wyoming". Your article really is not in touch with Wyoming politics, it seems.

conservation know it all

Tragic story of three methamphetamine users/dealers (Shepard, McKinney and Henderson) and the extremely unfortunate choices 2 of them made, resorting to a gruesome murder to get the next high. The meth world has an incredibly brutal culture.

Cowboy Logic

Having Matthew loose his life in this manner is very tragic. It’s an abomination to God any way you answer this if you agree with this disgusting situation of the two men on the front page of Sunday’s paper. Now there is a baby girl being brought into this. It is not my right to judge but God’s. He tells me this is wrong and if you call yourself a Christian and you agree with this then you’d better read your bible more carefully and fully understand it. 1 Corinthians 6:9-10


I can't believe here we are 15 years later and we are still judging gay people and condemning them. Haven't we learned anything? Apparently not? And to the person that sad Matt Shepard was a Meth Dealer. That is false. People just assume cause you are a homosexual that somehow you are a druggie too. False. You people really need to learn to open your hearts and your minds. You might do something good for the world instead of spreading hate.

conservation know it all

I don't assume Janet Youngholm, Janet de Vries and Mike Fostmeier are druggies, that would have no basis in reality. Any half-hearted investigation into the intent of the murder would reveal that Shepard was involved in the meth world and because of his involvement in the drug culture, he was murdered. McKinney and Henderson deserve their life sentences for murdering Matthew Shepard even though his sexual orientation had nothing to do with why he was murdered. So why is it important to deny that Shepard was involved in meth, when it is clear that he was? Is there not a lesson to be had with avoiding drugs, or does that not fit certain personal agendas?


Even if he was involved with drugs...that in no makes this crime any less acceptable.

conservation know it all

I completely agree, it just makes it less of a story in the dominant liberal establishment mass media's eyes. If the crime had nothing to do with Matthew being gay, it would not have been a national story. It doesn't mean that it hurts Matthew's surviving family members less or that the murderers hated Matthew less.


conservation know it all you know nothing about Matthew Shepard. Pure hearsay. I suppose you read that stupid book that's out now about Matt Shepard. All lies.

conservation know it all

I did not read the stupid book, and don't intend to. I was living in Laramie at the time he was brutally murdered and I remember hearing about Mathew's drug habit after the gag order was released on the court documents and maybe before that, I mean this is nothing new. I did google it and read an article by abc news and one by the Huffington post. I did not witness the murder and did not personally know Matthew or anybody directly involved in the case, maybe you did witness it and did know Matthew and people directly involved in the case.

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