Hate Crime Legislation Progresses Following Weekend Assault

Feb 19, 2019, 7:26 PM | Updated: 7:53 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Three days after a gay man shot video of an assault against himself outside a Main Street bar in Salt Lake City, legislators are closer to a debate on hate crimes legislation.

For the first time since hate crimes legislation was introduced four years ago, the bill will get a fair debate in committee.

The community has rallied in support of that victim, who was attacked Saturday. Police hope to interview the suspect soon and move forward with their investigation.  Right now, no specific charges are under consideration.

Republican lawmakers emerged from their caucus meeting at the State Capitol today optimistic they will pass a victim targeting bill that would enhance the penalties in crimes like this one.

Supporters of Senate Bill 103 said there are two victims in a hate crime like the assault Saturday: the person themselves and the community they represent. They said a hate crime is a targeted crime not based on what the victim has done, but who they are.

The bill sponsor, republican State Senator Daniel Thatcher, said it has been a difficult and long road to get to a committee hearing on his victim targeting legislation. He said it is still a long road ahead.

“We still have a long way to go, but we have overcome the largest hurdle,“ said Thatcher.

If passed, the law would enhance penalties for a crime if the offender acted against an individual because of the offender’s perception of the individual for any of the following:

  • ancestry
  • disability
  • ethnicity
  • gender
  • gender identity
  • national origin
  • race
  • religion
  • sexual orientation

Penalties would also be enhanced if the criminal offense damages property based on those same perceptions. The bill would not affect an individual’s constitutional right of free speech, according to supporters.

“When you have a criminal action that is specifically perpetrated for the purpose of threatening or intimidating someone from engaging in their constitutional rights, then we have an obligation as a government to step up and do something about it,” said Thatcher

State Senator Derek Kitchen understands the sting of a targeted, hate crime. The restaurant he owns with his husband was targeted for a hate crime last week.

Kitchen told KSL in a text that it’s time for a public debate and he’s glad the legislation will finally get a hearing.

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Hate Crime Legislation Progresses Following Weekend Assault