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Gay Man Assaulted In Salt Lake City As State Lawmakers Prepare To Debate Hate Crime Bill

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Screenshot Twitter.com
A screenshot of the man who assaulted Sal Trejo in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday. This image is moments before he hit Trejo.

An assault against a Salt Lake City man over the weekend for being gay is drawing attention to what’s at stake for hate crime legislation in Utah.

Cell phone video shows Sal Trejo walking with friends on Main Street in downtown Salt Lake City on Saturday night. According to Trejo another man walked up and started verbally harassing them with homophobic slurs.

“Are you gay though?” the man asks.

When Trejo responds yes, the man swings, hitting Trejo in the shoulder and sending his phone flying.

Incidents like this show what’s at stake for some minority communities in Utah during a week when hate crime legislation that some say is too weak could be debated by the state Legislature.

According to Utah state Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, and Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill, Utah’s current hate crime statute is virtually unenforceable.

In past interviews both Thatcher and Gill said Utah’s hate crime statute has never been successfully prosecuted in the 20 years it’s been in place.

That could change this week. As soon as Tuesday Thatcher’s bill to strengthen the Utah hate crime statute could be debated at the Capitol. The legislation would increase penalties for crimes that target an individual because of their sexual orientation, religion, disability or ethnicity, among other attributes.

Legislative leaders said on Friday that support for Thatcher’s hate crimes legislation left it at a 50 percent chance of passing because of concerns from some senate Republicans about “creating selected classes” of people with unique protections.

“I’m glad this is getting some attention because we’re not the only people that this happens to. Not everybody has the courage to say something,” Trejo said, in an interview after the incident.

After the weekend incident, he was shocked but unhurt. According to the Salt Lake City Police Department, the suspect in Trejo’s video was contacted and is cooperating with law enforcement.

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