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Juneteenth could become an official state holiday in Utah

Photo of Juneteenth flag.
Emily Means
/
KUER
Juneteenth recognizes the day when the last enslaved people were freed on June 19, 1865.

Utah is one step closer to recognizing Juneteenth as an official holiday.

Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, is sponsoring H.B. 238, which would designate the day as such.

June 19 celebrates the day when the last enslaved people were freed in Texas. Last year, the federal government recognized it as an official national holiday.

At a hearing for the bill Monday, Tamara Stevenson, the chief diversity officer at Westminster College, said it was time for Utah to follow suit.

“The official state observance of Juneteenth National Freedom Day in Utah would be a tangible demonstration of Utah's stated commitment to diversity and inclusion,” Stevenson said.

No one spoke in opposition to the bill. Justin Martinez, who spoke during public comment, said recognizing the importance of the day would help Utah get ahead of the “hyper partisanship” throughout the state and country.

“This is an opportunity for us to not make this about rehashing past sins of American history, but of recognizing the process of repentance through which our country has gone in order to ensure the social equity, the equality that should be extant among human beings,” Martinez said.

Utah could join eight other states in declaring Juneteenth an official holiday.

Emily Means is a government and politics reporter at KUER.
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