New hate crime bill to be introduced in Utah; advocates say past bills not passed due to bias against LGBTQ

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Despite several failed attempts, a hate crime law will be re-introduced this upcoming legislative session in Utah.

As the legislature prepares to consider the fourth hate crime proposal in recent years, some lawmakers like Republican Senator Todd Weiler, are admitting that it’s the inclusion of the LGBTQ community that's been preventing this law from getting passed.

“Most of the recent efforts have been trying to expand it to protect members of the LGBT community and that's always controversial in Utah for various reasons,” said Weiler.

Senator Weiler is admitting something many have speculated, according to Salt Lake Tribune Political Editor, Dan Harrie.

“Sponsors of the legislation in the past have said that the church was responsible for it not getting through the legislature,” said Harrie.

While the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has never spoken out against hate crime legislation, they've never supported it either.

“The LDS church does not engage in over 99 percent of the bills that the legislature has, so it’s not uncommon for them to remain disengaged from almost every issue,” said Weiler.

However, the church did support a law in 2015 that outlawed discrimination in housing and employment for the LGBTQ community.

“Kind of a consensus that we should let the dust settle on that and not try to pick at those scabs every single session,” said Weiler.

Executive Director of Equality Utah, Troy Williams, is dismayed the legislation hasn't gone through.

“It’s frustrating that in 2019 to think that some lawmakers might deny justice to victims of hate just because they didn't want to include LGBT people in the legislation. That makes no sense,” said Williams.

Support for a workable hate crime law has been reignited after a Salt Lake City tire shop owner and his son were attacked by a man yelling, "I want to kill a Mexican.” The way the law is written now, the suspect cannot be charged with a hate crime.

“To think that that man will not receive the justice he deserves because some lawmakers don't like LGBT people. That's inconceivable,” said Williams.

Senator Daniel Thatcher is hoping the national spotlight from the case will give his bill the extra boost it needs this upcoming legislative session.

Last year, Senator Thatcher's bill didn't even get a committee hearing, but with 25 new legislators this year, it's too early to tell if that trend will continue.

To read more about this issue, check out this article in the Salt Lake Tribune: https://www.sltrib.com/news/politics/2019/01/06/lgbtq-protections-remain/

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