All Men Are Created Equal
Any Google search on the name “Matthew Shepard” turns up hundreds of thousands of stories written in the ten years since Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered, reportedly, because he was gay. His murder brought national as well as international attention to the issue of hate crime legislation at the state and federal levels.
A story you may not have heard is the case of Jason Shephard, nearly identical in age to Matthew, but who was brutally murdered by a gay man after fighting off his sexual advances. This Shephard is a virtual unknown, having received little, if any coverage in the national media.
Jason was studying to be a teacher. He was also an athlete, a runner. Taking a semester off to earn money, he took a job interning for Daktronics Inc., a sound equipment company. His dad said he was excited about the new job and hoped to do well. He had good friends, had no interest in drugs, and as testified in court, had no interest in having sex with other men.
On a three day business trip to Philadelphia, his employer, William Smithson, slipped date rape drug GHB into Jason’s food during a dinner and tried to rape him. Prosecutors said during the trial that 43-year-old William Smithson, frequently had gay sex parties featuring methamphetamine and GHB, and had developed a fatal attraction to Jason.
When Jason, even in his drugged state, rebuffed the attempted rape, Smithson brutally strangled him. As testified in court, Smithson continued his strangulation hold for more than two minutes after Jason’s body quit struggling and lost consciousness to ensure his death. Tipped off by one of Smithson’s former lovers, police found Jason Shephard’s nude body, bound in belts and wrapped in sheets a few days later in Smithson’s basement which also contained a mirrored ceiling, couch and video equipment.
The 40-year-old Smithson was arrested and charged with first-, second- and third-degree murder, attempted rape, abuse of a corpse, aggravated assault, unauthorized administration of an intoxicant and tampering with evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to life in prison.
Both Matthew Shepard and Jason Shephard were brutally murdered. One was gay, murdered by straight men, the other was straight, murdered by a gay man. Both sets of murderers received life in prison, without parole, both got what they deserved, regardless of race, color or sexual orientation.
The Equal Protection Clause secures the promise of the United States’ professed commitment to the proposition that “all men are created equal”. Yet federal hate crimes laws are being rushed into the books based on motives involved specifically in Matthew Shepard’s case because he was a gay man targeted for his sexuality and killed by straight men.
Yet are not these two cases, Shepard and Shephard demonstrating the epitome of equal protection? Why is one being elevated to national furor, while the other is overlooked?
Already society seemingly values the life of one Shepard over the other. Is it right that the law should also?
Equal is equal, regardless of sexual orientation. In our abhorrence and rush to judgment, we’re being sold a line that hate crimes bills are necessary to prevent what happened to Matthew Shepard. But in that rush to judgment, we forget that we cannot be legislated into utopia. No amount of grandstanding or legislating can prevent people from hurting other people.
The two miserable human beings who killed Matthew Shepard are currently serving life sentences for their crimes – and rightfully so. That being said, can I ask the obvious question?
Why do we need “hate crimes” legislation to monitor thoughts and intents? Why can’t actions speak for themselves?