A Wyoming bar less than an hour from where Matthew Shephard was beaten to death, reportedly sold shirts advocating anti-gay violence
A Wyoming bar reportedly sold T-shirts advocating for violence against members of the LGBTQ community.
The owner of the bar told a local paper that the shirts were sold out and he wouldn’t be reordering them.
The controversy comes as Wyoming lawmakers consider a state hate crime law and expanded protections.
A local bar in Cheyenne, Wyoming, sparked outrage across the state after selling homophobic T-shirts advocating for violence against people with AIDS, according to local news reports and a statewide advocacy group.
The T-shirt depicts a man in biker attire pointing a gun.
“In Wyoming, we have a cure for AIDS,” it reads. “We shoot f—in’ f——.”
Wyoming Equality, an LGBTQ advocacy group, posted about the shirts on Facebook earlier this week, noting the organization had asked the establishment to pull the shirts from circulation, and management had declined.
“We hoped that they would choose to stop selling them when they realized the harm it did to the LGBTQ community and those living with AIDS.”
The advocacy group chose not to share the name of the bar out of fear of generating more business for the business.
However, Ray Bereziuk, the owner of The Eagles Nest, the bar in Cheyenne, told The Cheyenne Post on Monday that the homophobic shirts were “sold out” and no longer available. Bereziuk told the outlet he would not be reordering the shirts, noting that he is “in the bar business, not the apparel business.”
The bar’s voicemail box was full and could not be reached for comment.
The shirts sparked backlash on social media following Wyoming Equality’s initial post.
Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon commented on the matter, telling the Casper-Star Tribune that it was “incredibly disheartening to learn that any business would offer a product for sale with a message like this.”
“This hurtful rhetoric is not reflective of our state’s values and does nothing but promote hate and division,” he added.
The bar is located less than an hour from Laramie, Wyoming, where gay college student Matthew Shephard died after he was brutally beaten in a homophobic attack in 1998. His death launched protests nationwide and led to the creation of The Matthew Shepard Foundation, which works to amplify Shepard’s story and address hate through local, regional, and national outreach.
The T-shirt controversy comes one month after Wyoming state legislators met to discuss hate crime legislation, according to the Tribune. The Joint Judiciary Committee voted to pursue expanded hate crime protections, the outlet reported, after hearing emotional testimony from members of the LGBTQ community.
Sara Burlingame, executive director of Wyoming Equality, told NBC News that the bar’s T-shirts caused some state lawmakers to better understand the need for a hate crime law in the state, which she said has a reputation for being unsafe for the LGBTQ community.
“As we make this pitch to the global community to come and invest in us, there’s a piece of us that is just so cankering and that we refuse to look at, we refuse to address – and it’s not going to go away,” Burlingame told the outlet.
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