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Utah Conservatives Pile On to Pass Hate Crimes Bill... Now That It Includes Them

by Kilian Melloy
Friday Mar 15, 2019
In this Jan., 7, 2019, photo, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R - Clearfield, speaks during the Utah Taxpayers Association 2019 legislative outlook conference, in Salt Lake City
In this Jan., 7, 2019, photo, Rep. Karianne Lisonbee, R - Clearfield, speaks during the Utah Taxpayers Association 2019 legislative outlook conference, in Salt Lake City  (Source:AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

A bill to strengthen Utah's hate crimes statutes lost momentum the year Donald Trump successfully ran for the presidency, and has been in limbo ever since... until, that is, the recent addition of a new protected class that offered conservatives added legal protections, reported HillReporter.com.

As soon as "political expression" was added to the bill — which already included "sexual orientation," "race," "religion," and the like — the state's conservative lawmakers couldn't pass it fast enough.

Karianne Lisonbee, the Republican state representative that led the way for the language's inclusion, told the media that she had been the subject of "hateful" comments and "death threats." Media sources noted that Lisonbee recently led efforts to gut a bill that would have protected the state's LGBTQ youth by banning so-called "conversion therapy" on minors.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert tweeted his enthusiasm over the bill.

"I appreciate the great work of the legislature on SB103, which will serve as a powerful tool in providing critical protections to Utah residents," the governor tweeted.

Left unclear was precisely why earlier versions of the bill would not have provided similarly "critical protections" by extending protections to people who might have been targeted for violence because of sexuality, gender identity, religion, or ethnicity. But once lawmakers understood the value of hate crimes legislation in a personal way, the measure passed 64-9.

"I look forward to it landing on my desk and signing it into law," the governor's tweet added.


Media sources took special note of the bill's apparent meaning for the conservatives that approved it, but once the measure becomes law it will — in theory - apply evenhandedly to people of all political persuasions.

An Associated Press story noted that in 2016 when the legislation was first introduced, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints made it known to the state's legislators that it harbored concerns over the bill. But the church made it clear this year that it was fine with the measure, the AP reported.

LGBTQ advocacy group Equality Utah saw the bill as a win since its provisions do extend to sexual minorities. Said the group's executive director, Troy Williams, "It was incredibly moving to have a body of conservative elected lawmakers vote for protections for LGBTQ individuals."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews theater for WBUR. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, The Gay and Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.


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