First, your point that murder is murder is very correct. That is where they are the same. And it is not "more wrong" to kill either of the two. That is an incorrect conclusion.
But in other ways they are completely different.
Case 1. Matthew Shepard. He was specifically targeted for attack by two men because he was gay. Their intent, proven by both their girl friend's testimony and other evidence showed that they plotted this beforehand. They picked him up at the bar and was robbed, pistol whipped, tortured, tied to a fence in a remote, rural area, and left to die.
Case 2. Jason Shepard. Jason Shepard was attacked and killed by Bill Smithson, an openly homosexual man, who slipped the victim the date rape drug GHD and attempted to rape him. It appears that the "openly homosexual" part of the crime was not relevant. It does not say that Shepard was straight and resisted, nor does it say that Smithson targeted Shepard for anything other than rape.
If Jason Shepard had been Janet Shepard who had been drugged with GHD and an attempted rape had resulted in murder, it would not even make the news.
So the obvious, blatant difference is that one group of two guys went after a GAY specifically, with the intent to harm and the other guy went after a rape where sexual orientation has not been shown to be an element of the case.
Both are very sad examples of human behavior. Only one is a hate crime.
While you choose to argue your point from a 'legal' perspective, I am going to argue mine from a moral perspective. ALL crime is hate
. It's either hate for the person that it's committed against, hate for the simple fact that person may possess more, look better or fare much better (jealousy breeds hate) or hate for the respect due the person it's perpetrated against or the laws written and enforced to prevent such crimes. Liberals attempt to assign a 'tag' or a name to EVERYTHING. It should be just as repulsive that a gay man was murdered because he was gay or a heterosexual murdered because he wouldn't play gay with the aggressor. The aggressor should be awarded no extra points because he doesn't fit in to the square hole that is assigned for specific crimes. Crime is crime. No difference. All wrong. Burglary is burglary, murder is murder, rape is rape.
It is quite interesting, no matter how you personally feel about religion, how the very foundations of our laws was based in Mosaic law (i.e. thou shalt not kill (murder), thou shalt not steal, thou shalt not bear false witness, etc.) and, over the years, our criminal laws have been changed to suit the nature of the times instead of remaining constant against the nature of the crimes. Notice how no
discerning circumstances were laid out in the Mosaic law such as: 'Well, he stole because his children were hungry' or 'He killed his brother because his brother insulted him in front of his family' or 'it's okay that he SAID he saw it, even though he didn't. That guy had it coming to him'. The laws were pretty plain and so were the punishments laid out for them.
We, as humans, seek to justify our actions and positions by constantly rewriting moral codes for our society. If you will take note, this has been the foundation of nearly every failed government throughout history. Laws initially intended to be applied equally across the board tend to get butchered and rewritten in order to pursue a group's own agenda, in this case, equality and discrimination. The irony is that equality is sacrificed and discrimination is committed pursuing these very laws intended to stop it. So, if a society wishes to be consistent, then there would be no such designation as a 'hate crime', since crime is already wrong and it took hate to commit it. So, any society that pursues the present course our legal system is in will fail and fail miserably to pursue equal justice for all.