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Hate-crimes bill killed in Utah senate committee

Hate-crimes bill killed in Utah senate committee

A hate-crimes bill nine years in the making failed to get past a Utah senate committee after nearly two hours of debate Tuesday. Senators voted 4-3 to kill the bill, introduced by Sen. Karen Hale (D-Salt Lake City). It would have created enhanced penalties for crimes where victims had been selected based on the bias or prejudice of the perpetrator. The senate judiciary, law enforcement, and criminal justice committee heard an hour of emotional testimony from the public, some of whom said the bill was part of a gay agenda to create special protections in the law for gays and lesbians. Other testified they knew of people who had been physically tortured for being Hispanic or had themselves had racial epithets spray-painted on their homes. Police and prosecutors, who for nine years have asked for a more effective, usable hate-crimes statute, asked the committee members to send a message that bias crimes will not be tolerated in Utah. The bill's defeat came a day after the law enforcement authorities held a rally at the capitol in support of the bill, which could be used in about 62 hate crimes annually committed in the state. But senators who voted against it said they feared the bill would diminish the rights of those who are not members of the protected groups contained in the bill. Sen. Dave Thomas (R-South Weber) said he feared prosecutors might use the legislation to stack charges against offenders. (AP)

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