Historic hate crimes bill signed by governor

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SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – Governor Gary Herbert’s signature is the finishing touch on an effort that goes back years on Utah’s Capitol Hill.

State lawmakers, community advocates, religious leaders and more packed the Capitol Rotunda for the historic signing of Senate Bill 103, Utah’s hate crimes bill.

Luis Gustavo Lopez was there to witness it first hand too.

Back in November 2018, he was the victim of a vicious attack at his family’s tire store.

The suspect entered saying he wanted to kill Mexicans.

“From being on a hospital bed for like three or four days, laying there and not really moving at all, I kind of lost a lot of my strength and a lot of weight and from the incident that had happened, I had a lot of blood go to my stomach and my lungs,” said Lopez.

Recovery was tough, but Lopez is now doing well and is moving on with life.

Still, there are those reminders.

“It was hard getting used to things again, and I guess say, trying not to look over my shoulder every time now, but I have caught myself one or two times,” he said.

His story became a focal point for hate crimes legislation and helped lead to a new day, and a new message.

“Thank you to those, who with their vote, signal that we as Utahns will hold you accountable if your hateful thoughts become action,” said Representative Sandra Hollins, (D) Salt Lake City.

Senator Daniel Thatcher picked the bill up a few years ago. He and Representative Lee Perry finally carried it across the finish line.

But, it took a change of heart for both of them.

“Four years ago I was on the wrong side of this issue, four years ago I didn’t understand it,” said Thatcher, (R) West Valley City.

“Something came to me from a higher power that said, Lee, you’ve got to do this, you’ve got to get it,” added Perry, (R) Perry.

Their bill creates an enhanced penalty for those convicted of targeting a victim based on race, religion, sexual orientation, military service, political expression and a number of other protected categories.

“Everybody, every person, every individual in our society is worthy of dignity, respect and love,” said Governor Herbert, (R) Utah.

Lopez knows this comes too late for him, but he hopes it keeps others from the same suffering he endured.

“They will get that punishment that they deserve because for me it felt that at the time they weren’t getting the punishment that they deserve,” said Lopez.

Previously seen as an obstacle to hate crimes legislation in our state, this year, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints announced it would not oppose the proposal.

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