Gov. Gary Herbert says he generally supports stiffening penalties for hate crimes — that includes protections for LGBTQ individuals — despite a long-stalled effort in the Legislature.
“The message we want to put out there is that members of the gay community, LGBTQ, are loved and welcome and appreciated for who they are,” said Herbert on Thursday. “They ought to feel safe, they ought to feel loved. So anything we can do to enhance that, we ought to do.”
At his monthly news conference, the Governor discussed a number of proposals coming his way ahead of the legislative session starting Monday.
Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley, is planning to reintroduce a bill this year that he says has been derailed in the past by opposition from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
However, Marty Stephens, chief lobbyist for the Church, said this week the Church is not opposed to the effort and will not stand in the way of Thatcher’s bill.
Prosecutors say Utah’s current law is weak and doesn’t align with federal hate crimes statutes that punish defendants who target any individual based on factors such as disability, ethnicity, gender identity, race, religion or sexual orientation.
Gov. Herbert was also asked about another bill, by Rep. Merrill Nelson, that would bar transgender individuals from changing their sex on a birth certificate. He said he hasn’t seen the specific details but thinks anyone who wants to change their gender on a state document should be able to.
“If they want to have that on a public record, there ought to be a process for them to have that happen,” said Herbert. “I think most people would welcome it and think there’s no reason why we should stop it.”
Herbert, who once defended the state’s same-sex marriage ban, has shifted his views on LGBTQ issues over the years as public opinion has moved.
Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, is likely to reintroduce a dueling bill to counter Nelson’s legislation and streamline the process for changing a person’s sex on legal documents.