Slavery is still in Utah’s constitution and a lawmaker wants voters to remove it

SALT LAKE CITY — Slavery still exists in the Utah State Constitution.

“Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within this State,” it states in Article I, Section 21.

While officially abolished at the end of the Civil War, Utah’s constitution still has the words in it. Rep. Sandra Hollins, D-Salt Lake City, is now proposing a constitutional amendment to have the words removed.

“It’s still on the books and it needs to be removed,” she told FOX 13 on Friday.

Rep. Hollins, the Utah State Legislature’s only African-American lawmaker, said the language is “outdated and troubling.” She acknowledged that it’s unenforceable but should be removed.

“It’s a moral issue. This no longer reflects who we are as a state. So this language needs to be removed because it’s hateful language,” she said.

Colorado recently voted to advance its own constitutional amendment to remove similar language. In Utah, a proposed constitutional amendment needs to be passed by two-thirds of the Utah State Legislature. Then it would go before voters in the next election.

Rep. Hollins said she has heard no negative feedback about removing the word “slavery” from Utah’s constitution from her colleagues on the Hill. However, she acknowledged the amendment could also spark some heavy conversations about race in predominantly-white Utah. Those conversations, she said, should not be shied away from.

“I’m sure it’s going to open up a lot of different conversations about race, about slavery that is occurring around the world,” Rep. Hollins said. “Even though slavery has been abolished, there’s different types of slavery that still exists. I’m hoping it opens up conversations about that.”