News (USA)

Utah Senate panel OKs bill adding LGBT protections to hate crime law

For example, someone convicted of aggravated assault in Utah can get one to 15 years in prison if the victim suffers serious injuries. Under the hate crimes proposal, anyone committing an assault because of a victim’s sexual identity or another protected trait would be eligible for five years to life in prison.

Forrest Crawford, a professor at Weber State University, spoke in support of the measure and said that while he may be intentionally targeted for a crime because he’s African American, “I believe that my community, that people who look like me, are equally as victimized.”

Dani Hartvigsen with the Coalition for the Preservation of Family Values said she worries it goes too far and would criminalize beliefs.

She said if two people were fighting and both were charged, but one person called the other a name during a fight, that person could face a stiffer penalty.

Dave Mallinak, a pastor at a Baptist church in Ogden, said he worried that by making it a hate crime to target someone based on specific characteristics, people who target someone because of other characteristics would not be equally punished.

Sen. Daniel Thatcher, R-West Valley City, said the measure doesn’t create special protections.

“We are not setting and saying certain people have more rights than others,” he said. “We are establishing that when an intent is especially malicious, that that individual should be treated as slightly more dangerous than someone without that intent and that malice.”

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