Cheyenne GOP Rep Worries Wyoming Will Be Only State Without Hate Crime Law

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Republican state representative from Cheyenne believes that Wyoming could be the last state in the nation without a hate crime statute, more than 20 years after the state was thrust into the national spotlight due to a hate crime.

Rep. Dan Zwonitzer, R-Cheyenne, told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday that he believes the state needs such a statute.

His comments came less than one week after the Joint Judiciary Committee “voted down legislation that would have updated statutory language to create a…hate crime law in Wyoming,” according to WyoFile.

The committee also voted down a bill that would have brought law enforcement agencies’ reporting protocols in line with federal standards, WyoFile reported.

“I continue to believe Wyoming needs a bias-motivated crime statute. We are slated to be the only state in America without a statute at this point,” Zwonitzer told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday. “Wyoming will continue to find statutory language which will work for Wyoming.”

Along with Arkansas and South Carolina, Wyoming remains one of three states without hate crime legislation.

The Council on American-Islamic Relations, the nation’s largest Muslim civil rights and advocacy organization, on Monday called for the reintroduction of hate crime bills in the Wyoming legislature.

“With racism and bigotry on the rise across the country, legislation protecting vulnerable communities is vital,” said CAIR Government Affairs Director Robert McCaw. “We urge lawmakers in Wyoming and nationwide to enact legislation providing strong penalties for bias-motivated crimes.” 

McCaw noted that CAIR offered support for the legislation when it was proposed in June. 

Discussions of hate crime legislation have been brewing for nearly 20 years, following the murder of Matthew Shepherd, a gay man, in Laramie.

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