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Protest At Wyoming Funeral Feared

In Wyoming, the Casper City Council banned protesters from today's funeral of a slain University of Wyoming student, hoping to prevent a spectacle at an event that an anti-gay church vowed to picket.

During an emergency meeting late Thursday, the council voted unanimously to forbid protests before, during, and immediately after the funeral.

In the aftermath of the brutal murder of a Matthew Shepard, a gay Wyoming man, pressure increased for a nationwide hate crime law, CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers reports.

Shepard, 21, died Monday at a Colorado hospital, five days after he was found pistol-whipped and tied to a fence in near-freezing temperatures outside Laramie. Two 21-year-old men have been charged with murder.

Police said robbery was the primary motive but that Shepard was singled out because he was gay.

The killing has drawn nationwide attention. Wyoming is one of ten states that has no hate crime law on its books. Many people, including President Clinton, feel that this case demonstrates the need for national hate crime legislation.

Wyoming officials were bracing for the arrival of members of a Topeka, Kansas, church that regularly engages in anti-homosexual picketing. They planned to demonstrate at Shepard's funeral.

Gov. Jim Geringer has said officials cannot stop the group from Westboro Baptist from coming to Casper, but said their presence wasn't wanted.

Police are using bomb-sniffing dogs to make sure the church where services will be held is safe, Mayor Ed Opella said.

Councilman Paul Bertoglio said the council wants to keep the peace among protesters and take the pressure off Shepard's family and relatives.

"We've never faced this before," he said. "One of the things we're trying to do, besides protecting those who want to protest on both sides, is protecting family and relatives to allow them to breathe in peace."

The ordinance bans people from picketing on sidewalks, streets, and other areas next to the memorial service. It prohibits protesting on public property within 50 feet of the service.

"It's sad that we have to do this, that the sanctity of a funeral is not upheld," Councilman Tim Monroe said.

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