Sponsors of competing hate-crimes bills in Utah find common ground

Sponsors of competing hate-crimes bills in Utah found common ground during a debate Tuesday night and raised the possibility of a compromise. Sen. James Evans (R-Rose Park) and Rep. David Litvack (D-Salt Lake City) take different approaches in their bills to punish hate crimes. Litvack's HB68 lists specific groups that would be protected under the law, while Evans's SB41 does not.

Evans has said his bill is based on a Georgia law, but that law specifically mentions crimes based on race, color, religion, national origin, ancestry, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation. That is the same list that appears in Litvack's bill. Litvack asked Evans Tuesday night whether that was the language he had intended for his bill. Evans said that it was, as long as it also included the words "not to exclude any other groups," which also appears in the Georgia law.

Sponsors of hate-crimes bills that have been voted down in the Utah legislature over the years have said the objection has been over protecting gays and lesbians. Many gays and lesbians packed the council chambers Tuesday and asked Evans specifically if he had intended to include them. "Yes," said Evans.

He said his position on the hate-crimes issue has been much misunderstood and maligned. "I simply don't think it's fruitful for us to continue to go down the path of continuing to list group classification when we have the opportunity to treat everyone equally," he said.

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