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State legislature will consider amendment to increase penalties for hate crimes

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Utah lawmakers tries to pass hate crime legislature. (Photo: KUTV)

(KUTV) - The Utah legislature will soon consider a bill to enhance the penalties for crimes that target a victim because of their personal attributes.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher (R - West Valley City) , has introduced the Victims Targeting Penalty Enhancements bill, which would change the punishments for offenses commonly known as 'hate crimes.'

"I think the number one question we are going to get is why won't people pass this?" Thatcher said ahead of a telephone town hall meeting last week.

Thatcher's bill has received the support of dozens of influential organizations in Utah, including the Utah Chiefs of Police Association, the Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, and the NAACP, among many others.

Seven city and county councils have passed resolutions in support of Thatcher's bill.

2018 will be the third year a hate crimes bill has been presented at the legislature. Last year, Thatcher's bill didn't get a committee hearing and in 2016 a proposed hate crimes bill died shortly after a press release from The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints cited concerns about a ‘balance’ between religious liberty and LGBT rights.

Most of the hate crimes in Utah are against victims who are targeted because of race.

Thatcher points out his bill protects everyone equally rather than selecting minority groups.

“Find me a person on the planet that doesn’t have a race, I will wait it cannot be done,” Thatcher said in an interview with 2News.

The Libertas Institute announced its opposition to S.B. 86 saying, in part, “the motives involved in a crime are not important to the action itself. Whether an assault was instigated by the aggressor’s jealousy, drunkenness, anger, or “in part” due to a discriminatory “perception” about the victim’s personal characteristics is immaterial. Taxpayers should not be required to subsidize higher incarceration rates in pursuit of misnamed “social justice.”

You can read the Libertas Institute’s full statement on their website.

S.B. 86 is currently waiting to be introduced in the state senate. The 2018 legislative session opened Monday.