SALT LAKE CITY, Utah (ABC4 News) – A bill to beef up penalties for hate crimes in our state clears another hurdle at the state Capitol.
Senate Bill 103 continues to make historic strides.
After failing to clear the Senate for years, it was presented to the House Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice Committee.
Senator Daniel Thatcher says it’s needed because Utah’s current law is weak on those who target a victim for who they are.
He points to a case where a young girl was assaulted at school.
“It was because she was black and Utah law does not allow them to consider that,” said Thatcher, (R) West Valley.
Under his bill, it would.
It creates an enhanced penalty for those convicted of targeting someone based on race, religion, sexual orientation, age, service in the armed forces and other categories.
Opponents say the list falls short.
“If we are going to create special protections for people for hate crimes, because that’s what this is, then we need to protect everybody and not just if you happen to fall into one of those classes of people,” said Dani Palmer with the Utah Eagle Forum.
Thatcher says he’s open to expanding the list in the future, but it must move forward now.
A few members of the committee agree with the urgency. They say the terror hits close to home.
“A man went into a tire shop in my district and said he wanted to kill Mexicans. He beats them up so severely. We couldn’t do anything under our law,” said Representative Angela Romero, (D) Salt Lake City.
“I thought it was a sad day when I pulled in front of my church and there was a police officer there. And, after asking questions, found out that they had to hire a police officer while we were in worship because of the fear,” added Representative Sandra Hollins, (D) Salt Lake City.
The bill passed committee on an 8-2 vote. The next stop is the full House for debate.