Urquhart said Thursday that his proposal would protect religious groups, including members of the LDS Church, because Utah’s current hate crimes law is too weak to be enforced.
“Under current Utah law, there’s no legal distinction between painting a smiley face on a synagogue or painting a swastika on a synagogue. They’re both treated like mere graffiti,” Urquhart said.
“I apologize to the Jewish community and to the state of Utah that legal protections will not be provided against such threats because of a press release by my church,” he added.
Urquhart quickly left the news conference before taking questions from reporters and disappeared into back rooms of the Capitol.
His proposal was approved last week by a Senate committee and is awaiting a vote by the full Senate that is not expected to happen at least until next week.
Urquhart’s supporters said they’ll still push forward with the legislation but acknowledged it may not happen this year.
Utah is one of 15 states with hate crime laws that lack protections for sexual orientation and identity, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
The current law does not spell out any protected groups but instead speaks generally about crimes that cause a person to fear they cannot freely exercise their constitutional rights.
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