By Logan Molyneux
This week, Utah joined 46 other states with anti-hate-crime laws when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. signed HB90 into law.
The bill, sponsored by Rep. David Litvack, D-Salt Lake in the House and Sen. Karen Hale, D-Salt Lake in the Senate, passed overwhelmingly in the House and unanimously in the Senate. It asks courts and the parole board to consider the effects of a crime on the community. Any crime that causes fear or unrest in a community can be upgraded one misdemeanor class and be subject to a longer sentence.
Litvack has been sponsoring similar bills for the past seven years in the Utah legislature. Previous versions of the bill did not pass because they included provisions that protected minorities (including race, gender and sexual orientation) which some representatives thought afforded some people a special privilege.
Opponents also feared the bill would infringe on individuals” constitutional rights by limiting freedom of speech and expression. The bill now includes language intended to clarify that the provisions in the bill do not intend to limit any exercise of constitutional rights.
Huntsman called the bill a “pathway of hope” at Wednesday”s signing, according to a Deseret Morning News report.
“This was a culmination of prolonged and collaborative efforts,” Huntsman said.
Huntsman was referring to the work of several Utah lawmakers over the course of 15 years. Former Rep. Frank Pignanelli introduced a bill in 1991 after a Jewish woman who had been harassed and raped by neo-Nazis approached him. The bill failed to pass, but the late Sen. Pete Suazo followed Pignanelli”s efforts and introduced a similar bill in 1999.
Litvack and Hale took over from there, and have annually introduced revised legislation in an attempt to pass a hate-crimes law. The passage of this year”s revised bill has been seen as a compromise Litvack and Hale reached with conservatives.