WPR News
7:59 pm
Fri October 23, 2009

Dave O'Malley thrilled about hate crimes law

Laramie, WY – A lead investigator into Matthew Shepard's murder says he couldn't be happier that Congress has voted to expand federal hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.

Dave O'Malley was a detective for the Laramie Police Department when Shepard, a gay University of Wyoming student, was killed in 1998. O'Malley has since been to Washington to argue that federal hate-crimes law should protect victims of anti-gay crimes. He says he was thrilled to see this legislation pass: "It's like a Ray Romano moment for me. It's like holy crap, that's exactly how I feel, it's been eleven years. I know that President Obama has indicated that he will sign that legislation into law and I'm just about as happy as you can be."

O'Malley says he's heard the argument that all crimes are hate crimes...and crimes based on sexual orientation should not get special protections. He says he felt the same way...but that changed when he investigated Shepard's death: "I saw that a hate crime doesn't only impact the person who's the victim and those close around him like friends and family and things, I was able to see first-hand the terror in the lives of gay and lesbian people here in our community and around the country as a result of what happened to Matt, so I certainly see a vast difference in the two."

O'Malley says he wishes the new hate crimes bill could have passed ten years ago... but he's thrilled to see it on President Obama's desk. The bill helps fund local investigations into hate crimes motivated by sexual orientation, gender, and gender identity. Obama has said he supports such a law.