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Hate Crimes Bill Moves Forward, But Still Faces Obstacles

Brian Grimmett
Sen. Steve Urquhart, R-St. George, presents SB107 on the Senate Floor

The Utah Senate has given preliminary approval to a bill changing Utah’s hate crime laws.

Utah’s current hate crime laws have been deemed by the courts to be toothless. Republican Sen. Steve Urquhart’s SB107 would change that by defining hate crimes as criminal activity where the person doing the act intentionally selected the victim because of his or her ancestry, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, national origin, race, religion or sexual orientation. He says it’s important that the state says explicitly that it’s not OK to target a specific community.

“Remember, why does our criminal code exist? To deter certain behavior. To send a message that we find this deplorable. We find this unacceptable. Don’t do it. Passage of this law, that’s what it would say. Don’t go after a religious community, an ethnic community, or the LGBT community.”

Republican Senator Todd Weiler voted against the bill. He says it’s important to provide the LGBT community with protections, but this bill would create inequality.

“It smacks as if it’s a special status. It’s an elevated status. More important than obese people, more important than BYU fans, more important than fill in the blank, because if you were to attack me because I’m transgender now there’s elevated right, a special right, where there should be a penalty enhancement.”

While the Senate gave preliminary approval to the bill by a vote of 17 to 12, several lawmakers who voted yes, also said they still have some reservations. That could mean the vote will go the other way when the Senate debates the bill a second time next week.

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