Utah Updates Hate Crimes Law With More Victim Protections

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Hate crimes laws just got a boost in Utah with passage of a bill that adds statuses like first responder employment, sexual orientation, homelessness, ancestry, age and more via victim targeting penalty enhancements.

Recently Utah passed a bill that enacts provisions relating to sentencing for criminal offenses committed against victims selected “because of certain personal attributes” that essentially updates that state’s hate crimes laws that supporters say increases victims’ protections again potential hate crimes.

The ADL shared the news about its work with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and meeting with Governor Herbert and other leaders to support the bill, SB 103, indicating that with its passage, “For the first time, specific groups and categories of people including religion, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender and gender identity will be explicitly protected against hate violence. This is a major improvement over the past unenforced law — which was too vague and too restricted to provide useful protection.”

“I think with the passage of Senate Bill 103, we are sending a message that everybody, every person, every individual in our society is worthy of dignity, respect and love,” the governor said, according to Fox 13.

Under the previous Utah hate crimes law, certain attacks — like the 2012
shooting at Kol Ami synagogue in Salt Lake City and a November 2018 attack during which two people were brutally beaten with a metal bar by a suspect claiming he wanted to “kill a Mexican” — could not be prosecuted as hate crimes, according to the ADL.

The bill has been worked on and reintroduced for several years. Protected attributes now added to Utah’s laws on victim targeting are:

  • Age
  • Ancestry
  • Disability
  • Ethnicity
  • Familial status
  • Gender identity
  • Homelessness
  • Marital status
  • Matriculation
  • National origin
  • Race
  • Religion
  • Sex
  • Sexual orientation
  • Service in the U.S. Armed Forces
  • Status as an emergency responder, law enforcement officer, correctional officer, special function officer or any other peace officer
  • Political expression

Learn more about how governments can respond to hate crime incidents:

About the author

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox

Andrea Fox is Editor of EfficientGov.com and Senior Editor at Lexipol. She is based in Massachusetts.