Utah Gov. Gary Herbert (R) signed a historic hate crime bill into law on Tuesday (2 April).
Sponsored by State Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R), Senate Bill 103 enacts stricter punishments for those found guilty of committing a hate crime. It also updates the list of protected classes that fall under hate crimes. The updated list includes sexual orientation and gender identity.
During the ceremony signing the bill, Herbert said: ‘I think with the passage of Senate Bill 103, we are sending a message that everybody, every person, every individual in our society is worthy of dignity, respect and love.’
Everybody, every person, every individual in our society, is worthy of dignity, respect and love. Today I signed S.B. 103, which will protect Utahns of all races, creeds, religions, and orientations from hate crimes. Let there be peace on Earth, and let it begin with us. #utpol pic.twitter.com/U8utehgueL
— Gov. Gary Herbert (@GovHerbert) April 2, 2019
Salt Lake City District Attorney Sim Gill added a ‘missing piece of justice has arrived’.
‘Those who have been forgotten can now be seen, heard, and more importantly know our community will deliver a measure justice so long denied,’ Gill added.
A long time coming
Thatcher had sponsored this bill in previous legislative sessions. Each previous attempt at passing the bill, however, failed.
‘Once you get it, you can’t un-get it. That’s what it took,’ he told FOX 13 of convincing his colleagues.
‘Moving forward, I think this is just going to be a real blessing to the people of the state of Utah.’
One of the motivating factors to pass this bill was the attack on a Latino teenager and his father late last year. A family in Salt Lake City said a man attacked two of their family members — Luis Lopez, 18, and his father, Jose Lopez, 55 — with a metal bar after asking if they were Mexican.
Luis had to undergo surgery for a shattered cheekbone and collapsed sinus.
Gill explained that due to the state’s former high crimes statute, they could not prosecute this as a high crime until the Department of Justice became involved.
Luis was present at the signing ceremony.
‘I feel a lot better that now there’s at least something now to protect people,’ he said.
Georgia also recently passed a hate crime bill protecting LGBTI people.
A ‘great day for Utah’
In a statement to GSN, Troy Williams, Executive Director at Equality Utah, described the passing of this bill as a ‘great day’ for the state.
‘We’ve been working to advance this legislation for the past four years. This was a bi-partisan, intersectional victory that brought together multiple communities, faith groups and advocacy organizations,’ he continued.
‘Of course this bill doesn’t eliminate the problem of hate and violence, but it will provide prosecutors the tools they need to bring justice to victims of hate.
‘This is the third time in four years that the Utah Legislature and Governor Herbert have passed and signed LGBTQ inclusive bills.’
As for the future of LGBTI residents in the state, Williams remains hopeful, even in the face of their failed bill banning conversion therapy.
‘We are confidant that we will advance a prohibition on conversion therapy later in the year. We have been in active talks with the Governor’s office and legislative leadership. They have all expressed great interest in working together to protect youth from the dangerous practice,’ he said.
‘We still have much education to do, but more and more, we are seeing Republicans coming forward to work with our community. For example, both our hate crimes and conversion therapy bills have been sponsored by Republican lawmakers. Attitudes are changing and hearts are opening to our community. We remain optimistic about the future for LGBTQ Utahns.’
Author: Anya Crittenton
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