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Some Republicans Urge Repeal Of Hate Crimes Law

Photo of hate crimes bill signing.
Utah Senate
Gov. Gary Herbert signed a new hate crimes bill into law in March. Some Utah Republicans are hoping to see it repealed, though, saying the law is "dangerous to liberty."

A group of conservative GOP delegates wants the party to back a symbolic resolution calling for a repeal of the state’s newly strengthened hate crimes law, which Gov. Gary Herbert signed into law last month.

S.B. 103 allows judges to impose longer sentences for people convicted of crimes that target a person based on identifying factors like race, gender, or religion. It passed earlier this year with broad bipartisan support.

“[A]llowing government to punish people for their beliefs is dangerous to liberty, and contrary to the principle of equal treatment under the law,” the GOP proposal reads. It then goes on to ask the Utah Legislature to reject and repeal such laws.

The resolution includes a note that says it is “not intended to oppose criminal punishment for criminal actions. Nor is it intended to oppose penalty enhancements for malicious premeditation to hurt another person.”

The note adds that the resolution’s only intent is to “oppose punishing a person for his or her beliefs, whatever those beliefs may be.”

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, sponsored the hate crimes law and said during the legislative session that he struggled to convince people that the measure would only punish “a specific and deliberate action, and not thoughts and feelings.”

Thatcher did not respond to a request for comment Friday.

The resolution’s sponsor, Weber County Republican Brent Odenwalder, declined to comment on the proposal other than to say that the hate crimes law is “poorly crafted” and his resolution “very clearly addresses the problem.”

The resolution is one of a handful that state Republican delegates will vote on at the state convention on May 4. Delegates will also vote on bylaws and elect new leadership. The current chairman, Rob Anderson, announced last month he will not seek a second term.

Other proposed resolutions include an endorsement of ranked-choice voting and a call for an end to party infighting over an election law known as S.B. 54.

The Utah Republican Party has spent several years and hundreds of thousands of dollars fighting the law, which governs how candidates can get on a primary ballot. Earlier this year, the U.S Supreme Court decided not to take up the case and many Republicans are eager to move on.

Delegates behind the resolution in support of ranked-choice voting wrote that the unique voting method could help more Republicans get elected. The state legalized ranked-choice voting last year but only two cities — Vineyard and Payson — have signed on.

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