Matthew Shepard, 21, died in hospital Monday after being found lashed to a post outside Laramie last Wednesday in near-freezing temperatures, his skull so badly fractured that doctors could not operate. Local high school dropouts Arthur Henderson, 21, and Aaron James McKinney, 22, are to be charged with Shepard's murder. The attack has focused the anger of local gay rights activists against the state's legislature for rejecting hate-crimes legislation. House Speaker Newt Gingrich received a personal plea on the issue Tuesday -- from his sister Candace, national spokesperson for the Campaign for Human Rights, who told CNN she believes her brother would agree on the need for strong action against such violence.
The heat is on Republican legislators to pass hate crimes legislation protecting gays from attack. The beating death of a young gay University of Wyoming student is galvanizing a wave of gay rights activism across the U.S., and President Clinton on Monday urged Congress to pass the Federal Hate Crimes Protection act. The legislation adds gender, disability and sexual orientation to current hate-crimes laws covering attacks based on race, color, religion or national origin. National debate will be further fueled by a Supreme Court decision Tuesday to uphold a Cincinnati decision to eliminate discrimination protections for gays and lesbians.