Utah House votes to approve hate crimes legislation; Governor expected to sign

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After years of struggle, a bill that would give teeth to Utah’s hate crime law blasted through a major legislative hurdle Tuesday — almost clearing its way to Gov. Gary Herbert’s desk for final approval.

The Utah House of Representatives — after nearly an hour of emotional debate — voted 64-9 to approve SB103.

But the bill advanced only after it was changed to include “political expression” in a list of protected categories of people, including race, religion, gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. If perpetrators are found guilty of targeting a protected class, they could be prosecuted with an enhanced penalty under the bill.

Because the bill was changed, it now goes back to the Senate floor — where it’s expected to clear the Utah Legislature on a final vote.

Gov. Gary Herbert is expected to sign the bill, according to a statement issued from his office.

“Gov. Herbert appreciates the great work of the Legislature in passing this important piece of legislation, which will serve as a powerful tool in providing critical protections to marginalized groups and persons,” the statement said. “He looks forward to it landing on his desk and signing it into law.”

Outside the House chamber, the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, celebrated after the vote. He told KSL he expects it to sail through the Senate Wednesday. Even with the change, he said he expects to “pick up a couple of votes.”

“Without President (Stuart) Adams … coming around and saying, ‘Let’s figure out how to make this work,’ this bill wouldn’t have gone anywhere,” Thatcher said. “Without the governor stepping up and saying, ‘I want this on my desk, I’ll sign it,’ this wouldn’t have gone anywhere.”

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